On the eve of a new round of talks between the two Cypriot leaders, one unexpected issue dominated the headlines on the island: the seizure of a Turkish Cypriot’s vehicle at the Metehan/ Ayios Dhometios checkpoint in the capital Nicosia because it contained illegally imported asparagus.
Greek Cypriot customs officers stepped in on Monday morning when a routine check uncovered 435 bundles of asparagus in the Renault 9, which has TRNC number plates. The trunk of the car was full of asparagus, with additional bundles found in between the seats and in gaps next to the engine.
The Turkish Cypriot driver was given an on-the-spot fine of €400, which he did not contest. He was also charged €200 for the return of his car.
The incident set social media alight with Cypriots on both sides of the Green Line divide mocking the Greek Cypriot police for their actions.
Kiriakos Papanikolaou wrote on Facebook: “Cyprus is now a safer place. I can sleep in peace knowing ayrelli [asparagus] is not in the streets.”
Jim MacNee asked were ”Police acting on a tip?”
Sharing photos of the incident on Twitter, journalist Ertan Karpazli headlined his post: “Narcos: Cyprus”,in reference to the popular TV series about Columbia’s notorious cocaine trade. He added in jest, “A chronicled look at the criminal exploits of asparagus cartels, smugglers and kingpins in the Colombia of the Eastern Mediterranean. Coming soon on Netflix.”
A chronicled look at the criminal exploits of asparagus cartels, smugglers and kingpins in the Colombia of the Eastern Mediterranean.
Coming soon on Netflix. pic.twitter.com/1gNau0SutO
— Ertan Karpazli (@ErtanKarpasya) 26 February 2019
Restrictions apply to trade between North and South Cyprus. Unite Cyprus Now activist and former deputy head of the Turkish Cypriot Chamber of Commerce (KTTO) Kemal Baykallı noted on his Facebook page that had the Turkish Cypriot completed a one-page form at KTTO to register his asparagus business, he could have avoided Monday’s checkpoint hassle and fine.