Turkey’s Interior Minister, Ali Yerlikaya, has initiated an unprecedented campaign against organized crime, resulting in the dismantling of 38 “mafia-type” gangs in about 400 separate operations across the country. The large-scale crackdown, occurring within the first five months of Yerlikaya’s tenure, aims to tackle both local and foreign criminal elements. Approximately 2,900 suspected gang members have been arrested so far.
The campaign aligns with Turkey’s efforts to address international concerns regarding money laundering and terrorism financing activities. The Interior Minister emphasized the ministry’s commitment to cleansing the country of organized crime, underscoring one of its primary goals.
Recent high-profile arrests, such as that of Hakan Ayik, wanted in Australia and the U.S. on charges including international drug trafficking, murder, and money laundering, highlight the gravity of the situation. The arrest of Ayik, who had been on the run for over a decade, underscores the rise in crime in Turkey in recent years.
Yerlikaya’s focus on local mobsters involved in various criminal activities, including drugs and arms trafficking, fraud, and illegal gambling, has resulted in several significant arrests. The crackdown addresses concerns raised by experts, such as former police chief Mustafa Bogurcu, who described Turkey as a “mafia swamp.” The recent arrests provide evidence of criminal elements freely operating in the country and engaging in money laundering.
The Interior Minister’s proactive approach also involves addressing possible collusion between criminals and law enforcement, as seen in the arrest of alleged Ankara crime boss Ayhan Bora Kaplan. The arrest, part of an operation against 37 alleged gang members, led to the suspension of nine police officers, including four senior commanders.
The intensified efforts against organized crime align with Turkey’s broader economic agenda, aiming to be removed from the Financial Action Task Force’s “Grey List.” Finance Minister Mehmet Simsek highlighted the country’s commitment to tightening its approach to money laundering and terrorism financing, expressing optimism about being removed from the list after proposing fresh legislation to parliament.
As Turkey seeks to strengthen its stance against organized crime, the arrests send a message to criminal elements and contribute to the nation’s broader goals, including economic recovery and international credibility.
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