Turkish prosecutors have called the poisoning of Russian tourists with counterfeit alcohol during a yacht tour premeditated murder. Turkey is doing all it can to help the Russians in an effort to mitigate the damage done to the reputation of the Turkish tourist industry. Turkey is prepared to compensate the victims generously.
Thousands of Russian tourists have found themselves in trouble during vacations abroad. But gaps in Russia’s tourism laws make it difficult to secure compensation and to ensure that the guilty parties are punished.
“They do not deserve mercy”
“This is not a case of poisoning by bad products due to negligence,” said Celal Kilic, adviser on culture and tourism at the Turkish Embassy, on Wednesday in Moscow.
Mr. Kilic went further in talks with Alexander Radkov, acting director of Russia’s Federal Tourism Agency: “Those who added methanol to the alcohol knew what they were doing – adding a poison that can kill people. This person or persons do not deserve mercy.”
Several Russians were poisoned by the counterfeit alcohol. Two victims, Maria Shalyapina and Aigul Zalyayeva, died in a hospital in Antalya. Another Russian woman, Marina Sheveleva, died several days later in a Moscow hospital. The fourth victim, Alexander Zhuchkov, died in a hospital in the Turkish city of Denizli on Monday.
On June 8, the Russian Public Chamber published the results of its own investigation into the poisoning. Head of the Center for the Protection of Citizens Abroad Dmitry Davydenko said the Turkish authorities have fully cooperated with the inquiry.
The Public Chamber established that tickets for the yacht tour were sold at a discounted rate. “Tickets were sold for $18 per person whereas the average price is $33; quality suffered as a result,” Davydenko reported.
The nighttime excursion was organized by the Turkish company Orhan Denizcilik Marina Tourism and Ticaret. Experts say that until recently the company’s reputation was beyond reproach. All in all, there were about a hundred people on the yacht. According to Coral Travel representative Denis Pavlov, there were 30 employees of Odeon Tours (which, along with Coral Travel, is part OTI Holding) and another 30 Russian tourists on board, as well as citizens of other countries, including Europeans.
All passengers underwent medical check-ups after the first cases of poisoning. More than 20 people were taken to hospital. Four Russians were in critical condition and later died.
According to the Turkish Agricultural Ministry, the Russians were poisoned by the counterfeit whiskey Mister Burdon, which was imported into Turkey from Northern Cyprus by the company Jasmine and sold by the Ankara-based Birlik Gida at the local market.
The company sold 12,000 bottles of fake whiskey in the provinces of Ankara, Mersin, Antalya and Mugla. It would be premature to level accusations at specific individuals while the investigation is still underway. On June 7, France Presse quoted the Turkish news agency Anatolia as saying that the Turkish police have already confiscated 7,000 bottles of fake alcohol and arrested 22 people.
The Public Chamber believes that those responsible for the deaths of Russian tourists must face criminal prosecution.
If nobody had died…
It is not yet clear what compensation the victims and their families will receive.
Davydenko announced that Russia will seek compensation from the Turkish side. In the Public Chamber’s estimate, compensation could be as high as $100,000 per person. Lawyers for Odeon Tours have already filed a lawsuit against Orhan Denizcilik Marina Tourism and Ticaret.
Travel agencies and government bodies in both Russia and Turkey are doing all they can to deal with the consequences of the tragedy. Turkey has announced that it is prepared to pay for the medical treatment of the victims in the hospitals of Antalya and Denizli in excess of the sum covered by insurance. Turkey is also prepared to pay for the victims’ families to travel and stay in Turkey.
This is a huge scandal. It has seriously damaged the reputation of resorts in Turkey, and the actions of the Turkish authorities are justified. Cynical as it may sound, if nobody had died the outcome could have been different.
Russian tourists that find themselves in trouble during vacations abroad often fail to get compensation for material let alone psychological damage. Russian tourism laws do not specify the minimum insurance coverage for damages sustained during vacations. Experts, officials and travel agents keep talking about the need for this, but the laws have not yet been changed.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s and may not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.