Mob boss implicates Turkish ministers in drug trafficking, assassination of journalist

(Updated with Peker's brother's detention, Peker's reaction, remarks from Binali Yıldırım )

Infamous Turkish mafia leader Sedat Peker, in a video released on Sunday morning local time, accused the son of a former prime minister of sitting on top of a cocaine trafficking ring from Venezuela to Turkey.

Ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) heavyweight and former prime minister Binali Yıldırım’s son Erkan Yıldırım visited Venezuela to establish the new route in January and February this year, Peker alleged.

According to the mobster, ships taking off from the port in Caracas stop in the Dominican Republic, where they are loaded with the illegal drugs. Peker warned that drug busts would soon begin in the Caribbean nation, referencing earlier busts in Colombia for cocaine shipments destined for Turkish ports.

The trafficking operations also extend to Syria’s western port province of Latakia, Peker said.

Erkan Yıldırım works with Halil Falyalı, a man who has settled in the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus for which only Turkey provides diplomatic recognition.  From there, he runs money laundering and drug trafficking rings, Peker said.

“When Erkan Yıldırım visited Cyprus, he stayed with Falyalı,” Peker said. “I don’t believe Mr Binali was involved in such an organisation. The gambling tapes on Erkan Yıldırım, the bribes, I believe he was guided into this business after the fact. He became a part of this business.”

Former police chief and interior minister Mehmet Ağar “stands in the epicentre of this”, Peker said. “Look at the friendship between Erkan Yıldırım and (current interior minister) Süleyman Soylu.”

The former prime minister on Sunday denied the allegations against his son. Yıldırım said his son had in fact visited Venezuela, but in December to deliver face masks and COVID-19 test kits.

“It is the greatest insult to us to link us to narcotics,’’ Yıldırım said, adding that the claims were an attempt at a smear campaign.

Peker also accused Ağar of involvement in the death of Uğur Mumcu, a much loved centre-left investigative journalist who was assassinated by a bomb placed under his car in 1993. Ağar was serving as interior minister during the Mumcu assassination.

“Uğur Mumcu used to write about terrorism. Once he wrote about those who profited from terrorism, he was martyred in an instant,” Peker said. “Who was it who rushed to him when he was first martyred? Mehmet Ağar. The killer always arrives first.”

The mobster said Ağar had hired his brother Atilla Peker to assassinate another journalist, Kutlu Adalı, who was a friend to legendary Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktaş and had written about irregularities by Turkish authorities before and after the 1974 invasion of the Mediterranean island. Adalı was gunned down in front of his home in 1996, an act, Peker said, of another group, before his team could get to him.

Peker implicated Ağar in several other high-profile assassinations, including those of Kurdish businessmen who were allegedly involved in drug trafficking in the 1990s. One of the names Peker cited was Savaş Buldan, a Kurdish politician who was assassinated in 1993, after the Prime Minister at the time, Tansu Çiller, pointed to “Kurdish businessmen who aid the PKK”.

The state would “fight with any means possible against those providing material support” to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Çiller had said at the height of the conflict between the state and the armed group that has since been designated a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the European Union, and the United States.

Buldan faced charges of trafficking and handing over profits to the PKK, but he was never convicted. His assassination led to the politicisation of his wife, Pervin Buldan, who entered Turkey’s political scene as part of the Saturday Mothers, seeking justice for her husband, and currently serves as the co-chair of Turkey’s second-largest opposition group, the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).

Following the release of the video, Pervin Buldan said in a tweet:

“We have said this for years, now we say it again. Savaş Buldan and his friends were murdered by those who run the State. The hitmen were put on a show trial and were acquitted. Now we are back to square one, and we will appeal again to have them face trial.”

Later on Sunday, police detained Peker’s brother, Atilla Peker, in Turkey’s southwestern Muğla province,T24 news site reported.

The detention followed the seizure of an unlicensed gun and two ammunition clips in the vehicle of Atilla Peker, the site said, after the Muğla police Anti-Smuggling and Organized Crime Department requested a judicial search permit from the Fethiye Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office.

The mob boss reacted to his brother's detention, asking why the former government officials he accused of links to crime were not being detained instead of his Atilla Peker.

“It is very painful for me as someone who believes in the sanctity of the state,’’ Peker said on Twitter.  “(Why are) you only taking my brother into custody and not Korkut Eken and Mehmet Ağar?’’ 

Peker changed location for his seventh video, which he said had been necessitated by “a large group of visitors from Turkey”, leading to speculation that an operation team had been sent to capture him.

The mobster praised Turanism, an ideology to join all Turkic nations under one flag, and said he studied international law to avoid implicating the Turkish state with his accusations.

“I hope Brother Tayyip will do what is necessary, otherwise, people know everything now,” Peker said, calling on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to punish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu, who he said he would “put on a leash and take for a walk”. Peker also threatened Soylu, saying he would “face” him “after he leaves the honourable seat in the state”.

Peker also accused Environment Minister Murat Kurum and other high-ranking officials in the ministry of membership in FETÖ, the name Turkey uses for followers of exiled Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen. Once close allies, Ankara accuses Gülen of having orchestrated several attempts to overthrow the government, notably in a corruption probe in December 2013 and an attempted military coup in July 2016.

Kurdish lawyer Eren Keskin, co-chair of the prominent watchdog Human Rights Association (İHD), said Sedat Peker “has started to reveal truths that we have spoken about for years but couldn’t get any prosecutor to take action”.

“Today there is an authoritarian order of corruption. A cartel state. A narco-state, an autocracy,” Ahmet Davutoğlu, former prime minister who left the AKP to establish his breakaway Future Party (GP) last year, told daily Cumhuriyet in an interview on Saturday.

To go back to a democratic state of law, “politics, economy and the media must be redistributed”, Davutoğlu said.