Taxi driver jailed in Turkey for scamming tourist, escapes sexual assault charge

Taxi driver jailed in Turkey for scamming tourist, escapes sexual assault charge
An Istanbul taxi driver was sentenced to more than a year in jail for scamming a Thai tourist in an incident which prompted public outrage last year.
2 min read
03 April, 2019
Istanbul taxi drivers have gained a notorious reputation for scamming tourists [Getty]

A Turkish taxi driver was on Tuesday jailed for scamming a tourist in a case which caused mass outrage in a country where taxi drivers are regularly accused of defrauding tourists and harassing passengers.

In an incident recorded by the victim, Istanbul taxi driver Birol Topal was also pictured trying to sexual assault the Thai tourist.

Upon taxi driver's insistence, the tourist moved from the back seat of the taxi to the front seat. Topal then proceeded to try to grope the woman, as well as forcibly holding her hand and verbally abusing her.

The taxi driver claimed he had been "joking" with the passenger.

Charges of sexual assault initially lodged last year were later dropped.

Despite agreeing on a fare of 30 TL ($5.33), when the tourist gave Topal a 100 TL ($17.77), he returned just 20 TL ($3.55) in change. Topal had also refused to run the taxi meter over the course of the journey.

Topal was sentenced to one year and four months for defrauding the tourist, Daily Sabah reported.

The taxi driver's sentencing on Tuesday was welcome news to a public incensed by the viral video which pictured Topal harassing the tourist.

Taxi drivers in Turkey, and particularly in the the country's largest city and tourist hub Istanbul, are infamous for scamming tourists by refusing to run the taxi meter, taking circuitous routes and failing to give proper change.

They are also subject to routine complaints by Turkish customers of scams, harassment and other rude behaviour.

Yellow taxi drivers in Istanbul last week announced they would boycott ride-sharing app Careem after its acquisition by Uber.

While metered taxi drivers across the region have protested the ride-sharing apps, many customers have shifted to using services such as Uber which they say have a better quality of service and lesser rates of harassment and fraud.