Swedish police source accuses Turkey of leaking high-level intelligence to drug gang

Swedish police source accuses Turkey of leaking high-level intelligence to drug gang
By Akin Nazli in Belgrade September 18, 2023

Highly classified intelligence material shared by Swedish authorities with Turkish counterparts for the capture of Rawa Majid, known as the “Kurdish Fox”, was discovered on the mobile phone of one of Majid's gang members, Swedish daily Aftonbladet on September 15 quoted an unnamed police official as saying.

Majid is wanted in Sweden on charges of drug trafficking and attempted murder.

The Swedish police detected how members of Majid’s gang accessed the documents in 2022. The unnamed police official reportedly also emphasised that the intelligence was shared at the highest level.

The police source described the transfer of the intelligence to the gangsters as a scandal.

In 2022, Majid asked for assistance at a police station in Marmaris town of Turkey’s Mugla province on the Mediterranean coast after he left a bag containing a substantial amount of FX and Turkish lira banknotes in a park.

His actions at the police station raised suspicions. Upon the revelation of the true identity of Majid, who had assumed the identity of an Iraqi shipowner, Turkish police discovered that a red notice had been issued for him. That resulted in his arrest.

Subsequently, Turkey rejected Sweden's extradition request and Majid was released a few weeks later.

It was also revealed that Majid had been granted Turkish citizenship. Turkish journalist Timur Soykan reported that Majid has a house and an office in Istanbul. Soykan cited court documents that he accessed.

In July, the Brussels Times reported that Turkey refused to extradite Bosnian-born Sani al Murdaa and his Albanian accomplice Fljamur Sinanaj, who are wanted in Belgium for their alleged involvement in smuggling at least 3.2 tonnes of cocaine via Antwerp port on behalf of the Montenegro-based Skaljari cartel, since they have Turkish citizenship.

In 2022, Jovan Vukotic, head of Montenegro’s Skaljari criminal clan, was shot dead by a motorcycle hitman in Istanbul. Following the assassination of Vukotic, Milan Vujotic, head of the rival Kavac clan, and some other gang members were arrested in Istanbul. Media reports suggested that the Kavac clan hired two local Turkish gangs for the assassination.

In 2022, Turkey rejected an extradition request from the Netherlands for Jos Leijdekkers ("Bolle Jos", or "Chunky Boss"), who was accused of running tonnes of cocaine through the ports of Rotterdam and Antwerp.

Some of Europe's most sought-after criminals are managing to avoid arrest while obtaining Turkish citizenship, according to VICE News.

Individuals involved in large-scale drug trafficking are reportedly utilising Turkey's practice of providing citizenship in exchange for money while also leveraging the country's decision to decline extradition requests for recently naturalised citizens.

In 2018, Turkey’s government launched the "Golden Passport" programme that grants citizenship in return for a real estate purchase worth a minimum of $0.4mn.

In 2008, Turkey introduced the first of its wealth amnesty laws. The legislation is still on the books. Put simply, no one asks “Where did you get this?” when someone brings cash or gold into Turkey.

“Today, if someone comes to the border and claims to have [legitimately] brought €30mn, all they have to do is fill out a form for the public prosecutor and the Financial Crimes Investigation Board (MASAK),” Nedim Turkmen of Galatasaray University has said.

In 2022, unidentified FX inflows to Turkey under the “net errors and omissions” account of the country’s balance of payments (BoP) hit a record $27bn.

In 2021, the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force (FATF) placed Turkey on its grey listIn 2023, it decided to maintain that status for the country.

It’s thus no surprise to see gangsters arriving with laundered money in Turkey. Almost certainly related is the fact that, for example, instances of Iranian and Azerbaijani mafiosi going at their foes with guns in Istanbul shopping malls or a Montenegrin gang hiring a local gang to assassinate a Montenegrin rival have become standard fare nowadays in the country.

Last week alone, six members of a Swedish gang were arrested after a shooting in Istanbul, while a Turkish gang killed six members of a rival Turkish gang in Greece.

In 2017, the French and Dutch police infiltrated EncroChata Europe-based encrypted communications network that was used by drug smugglers.

In 2021, the Belgian and the Netherlands police accessed another encrypted messaging network, called Sky ECC (developed by Canada-based Sky Global).

As a result of the operations, cocaine traffickers were identified and the South America to Antwerp/Rotterdam cocaine route was hit.

Record jumps in cocaine seizures made by the Turkish police since 2017 in fact demonstrate that criminal gangs, under pressure to develop a new transit route given heavy seizures in European countries, switched to a route through Turkey, the Turkish counter-narcotics department said in its 2020 drugs report.

Turkey’s role as a transit country for cocaine has been growing in recent years, according to the Global Report on Cocaine 2023 issued by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

From 2014, the amount of the drug seized in the country increased sevenfold to a record 2.8 tonnes in 2021.

Some of the cocaine reaching Turkey arrives after transiting through Western Africa. Some comes directly from Latin America.

From Turkey, the outbound cocaine flows westwards across the Black Sea and the Balkans, a route traditionally associated with the trafficking of opiates and the smuggling of cigarettes.

Turkey's neighbour Greece has also been receiving rising quantities of cocaine in recent years, much of it destined for the same Balkan route and the markets of Western Europe.

Brazil and Ecuador are often the countries of departure for seized cocaine shipments.

Turkey regularly seizes cocaine at its Mersin Port in banana containers shipped from Ecuador while the European and South American police regularly seize ships carrying cocaine destined for Turkey.

Analysts assessing the drug trade roughly apply a one-to-10 rule to estimate the actual drug flow based on seizures, with the great majority of drugs making it through to illicit markets.

Banana shipments are seen as "a usual suspect" in the cocaine trade. Cheese shipments are also popular with cocaine dispatchers.

Ecuador annually exports around 3mn tonnes of bananas.

Turkish port operator Yilport Holding, a unit of Yildirim Group Holding, bought 50-year port concession rights at Puerto Bolivar in Colombia in 2016.