Turkish mafia leader Sedat Peker, who was once a staunch supporter of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, was targeted by Turkish police along with 62 other organized crime suspects as part of an İstanbul-based operation launched in five provinces across the country, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported on Friday.
Police officers raided 121 locations in Ankara, Kocaeli, Trabzon and Hatay provinces, in addition to İstanbul, with arrest warrants for 63 suspects, including Peker, who was determined to be the ringleader of the criminal group.
The suspects were found to be actively taking part in criminal activities – including robbery, assault, bribery and other crimes – and were involved in establishing an organized crime group, Anadolu said.
According to Turkish media reports, police officers raided Peker’s villa in İstanbul’s Beykoz district in Friday’s operation but failed to detain the mob boss since he was abroad.
In the past, pictures of Erdoğan with Peker, who was a regular guest at the president’s official events, had caused controversy due to the mafia leader’s criminal reputation. Peker had also published video speeches threatening Erdoğan critics and held rallies in predominantly nationalist cities like Trabzon and Rize.
Peker’s threats had targeted followers of the faith-based Gülen movement, whom he vowed to hang in city squares, as well as the “Academics for Peace,” a group of scholars who came to prominence by signing a petition that called for a peaceful settlement of Turkey’s Kurdish conflict. Peker said he would “bathe in the blood” of the academics.
Some journalists in Turkey were physically assaulted between the years 2014 and 2019, when Peker’s threats were made, and his men were alleged to be responsible for the attacks. However, he was not investigated or prosecuted, neither for the threats nor for the violence.
Peker left Turkey in early 2020 and settled in Montenegro, following the publication of a report related to arms trafficking to Syria, which was allegedly carried out under the guise of humanitarian aid. He later moved to North Macedonia, from where he was deported from in January to Kosovo.
According to a recent report by Balkan Insight, Peker had resided in North Macedonia with fake documents, and at least nine police officers were recently arrested there on suspicion of involvement in a criminal group that issued fake passports and identity documents to foreign citizens, allegedly including Peker.