Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has broken his weeks-long silence about the allegations of a mafia boss who has been directly targeting a government minister with bombshell allegations and said he stands behind the minister.
Sedat Peker, the head of one of Turkey’s most powerful mafia groups who was once a staunch supporter of Erdoğan, has since early May been setting the country’s political agenda through videos he posts on YouTube. Having fled to Dubai, the mafia boss has been making shocking revelations about state-mafia relations, drug trafficking and murders implicating state officials.
Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu has so far been Peker’s main target, primarily because he ordered a police raid on the gangster’s house in April when his wife and three children were home alone and because he called Peker “a dirty mafia leader” in a tweet.
“We have always been at the side of our interior minister in his fight against criminal gangs and terrorist organizations, and we will continue to be there,” Erdoğan said at a meeting of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) on Wednesday.
“Our nation can see who sides with with terrorist organizations, criminal gangs and the country’s enemies,” he added.
The lack of any reaction from Erdoğan about allegations made by Peker. who released his seventh video on YouTube on Sunday, which has so far been watched by more than 14 million people, led to speculation that Erdoğan might be considering firing Soylu. Soylu, who is seen as a powerful figure in the AKP, is claimed to have aspirations for AKP leadership after Erdoğan.
Peker claimed that it was connections to his family that had helped Soylu rise through the ranks of the right-wing True Path Party (DYP) before he joined the AKP in 2012 at the invitation of Erdoğan. He also claimed that Soylu helped him avoid police prosecution by notifying him that an investigation was being prepared against him, before he fled Turkey in early 2020. The mob boss further said Soylu previously told people that he and Erdoğan “liked” Peker.
In his speech, Erdoğan also refuted Peker’s claims about Erkan Yıldırım, the son of former prime minister and AKP deputy chairman Binali Yıldırım, suggesting that Erkan Yıldırım was part of a major drug trafficking ring involving Venezuela and Turkey.
According to Peker’s latest video, Erkan Yıldırım traveled to the Venezuelan capital of Caracas in January and February to establish a new drug trafficking route following a raid in Colombia last year when Colombian authorities seized 4.9 tons of cocaine headed for Turkey. Peker said measures implemented Colombian officials forced the Turkish drug network to find a new route via Venezuela.
“The targeting of our friend Binali Yıldırım due to his son is another sign of the real intention [behind those claims],” said Erdoğan.
Peker’s claim about Erkan Yıldırım was immediately denied by his father, who told reporters later on Sunday that Peker was lying.
He said his son went to Venezuela, not this year but in December 2020, and brought test kits and face masks to help the country fight the coronavirus pandemic although statistics showed low number of coronavirus infections in the country at the time.
Erdoğan claimed his AKP had ended the reign of the mafia in Turkey and had replaced it with the rule of law during its 19 years in power.
As Erdoğan was speaking, a video of police narcotics operations was played in the background.
Erdoğan broke his silence about Peker’s allegations after Soylu during a TV program on Monday night referred to the discovery of money counting machines in the house of the son of former interior minister Muammer Güler, as part of corruption investigations in late 2013 that targeted some AKP ministers and people close to Erdoğan.
The corruption investigations, called a coup attempt by Erdoğan, were immediately dropped, and the police officers and prosecutors who took part in the probes were jailed. They are still behind bars.
Some analysts say Erdoğan’s support for Soylu is aimed at preventing the minister from bringing the corruption investigations back to the nation’s agenda due to his own involvement.
In the meantime, in his first reaction to Erdoğan’s remarks on Wednesday, Soylu tweeted his continuing loyalty to Erdoğan.