Turkish mafia boss Peker’s latest videos spark questions, concerns on  state-mafia relations

(This article has been updated in the lede and from the 19th paragraph onwards with further details)

Turkish media and pundits are scrambling to decode a series of public statements by convicted crime boss Sedat Peker.

In video message posted on his YouTube account, Peker accused a former interior minister and police chief, and the Pelicanists, a clique of influential loyalists within Turkey's party, of conspiring against him.

Peker, who has made headlines with his ever-changing whereabouts, last month was targeted in a police operation, along with 62 others, as part of an İstanbul-based probe launched in five provinces across the country. A total of 49 people were detained as police continue to seek the other suspects.

Peker’s villa in İstanbul’s Beyköz district was raided on April 9, but police failed to detain the mob boss, who was last reported to be in Dubai (Peker reportedly left Turkey in 2020)

In a first video posted on Sunday, the 49-year-old said former Interior Minister Mehmet Ağar and the Pelicanists group were behind the operation against him as he vowed revenge over the grief suffered by his daughter in the raid on his home.

“The operation against me was coordinated by Mehmet Ağar, who is known as the head of our deep state, as well as the group known as Pelicanists,” Peker said, noting that only the latter would have the power at media outlets, whose editors he maintains close ties with, to cast him as a criminal.

Peker, a fervent supporter of the Turkish president, also said Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had provided him assurance that he would not be raiding people’s homes after midnight, but “50 police” had shown up at his Istanbul villa under Ağar’s directives to do just that.

Cumhuriyet newspaper on Monday drew attention to the book resting on the table in Peker’s video, Mario Puzo’s novel “Omerta.”

Peker could be sending a message with the Sicilian word “Omerta”, which means obedience to a  code of silence regarding all American mafia activities - disobedience to Omerta means death, Cumhuriyet said.

Former Interior Minister Sadettin Tantan on Tuesday told Cumhuriyet that crime leaders’ maintained connections to political figures and Peker’s statements suggested that he was privy to undisclosed information.

In Sunday’s video, Peker spoke on reports that “many changes” would take place in Turkey in April and that he would be “invited” to the country. 

Left-wing SoL news site on Monday pointed to Peker’s long-running relationship with Ağar, who was forced to resign as interior minister after the Susurluk scandal of Nov. 1996, which uncovered links between senior state figures and organised crime.

Peker testified in court in 2011 during the height of the Ergenekon and Balyoz operations, SoL said, and in his testimony stated that Ağar and his team were behind unsolved murders of the 1990s, when Ağar was head of the national police.

SoL also referred to a photograph which emerged last October, featuring mob boss Alaattin Çakıcı along with Ağar, retired colonel Korkut Eken and retired lieutenant general Engin Alan in one of Turkey’s famous touristic towns of Bodrum.

The four figures who were accused of some of the most horrific crimes of the 1990s, were confident enough to have their picture taken in front of a marina whose owner, Mubariz Mansimov, was recently jailed due to allegations of being a member of the Gulen Movement, which the Erdoğan government blames for the 2016 failed coup attempt.

Peker mocked these accusations against Mansimov and attributed them to Ağar once again as the actor who coordinated the police operation against Mansimov. In the same video, Peker said among the marina’s new owners appear some Azeri names as apparent owners on paper, but in reality, the marina is owned by Ağar.

Supporters of Çakıcı and Peker got into a war of words following a penal reform that would release a large number of people held in Turkish prisons in the summer of 2020.

Figures connected to the Turkish mafia appear to be feeling increasingly emboldened amid a flurry of public remarks and statements on social media. 

In a further video released Thursday, Peker made a series of allegations against the former interior minister’s son, Tolga Ağar, a member of parliament for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

A woman who accused Tolga of rape was taken away by helicopter after reporting the crime to the gendarmerie before later being found dead, Peker said. “Everyone knows, but no-one speaks up.”

The claim appears to relate to the case of Yeldana Kaharman, a young journalist who died in 2019. Friends say Kaharman had visited Tolga’s home the day before her death, Everensel reported.

Peker said Tolga was also involved in a drug-fuelled altercation with “our brother called Nusret, the butcher”, an apparent reference to celebrity restaurateur Nusret Gökçe, often referred to internationally as Salt Bae.

Tolga fired a gun after arguing with Nusret on the phone, leading to a police investigation, Peker said. However, the incident took place at the home of Emir Sarıgül, the wealthy son of Mustafa Sarıgül, a former district mayor of Istanbul’s upscale Şişli district, and both men used their political connections to cover up Tolga’s involvement, Peker said. Emir’s driver ultimately took the blame and was jailed, he added.

Peker went on to blast the failure of Istanbul authorities to crackdown on illegal drug-taking. Referencing Erdoğan’s often-stated ambition to raise a “pious generation”, Peker said the current generation was instead addicted to drugs. The source of these drugs was Mehmet Ağar, he added.

Peker said he would be releasing more videos on Ağar’s role in the “deep state”, including the murder of Kutlu Adalı, a journalist and peace activist killed in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus in 1996.

Government officials have yet to respond to Peker’s claims.