New cocaine route goes through Turkey, Spanish daily claims

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Turkey is part of a new drug trafficking route from Latin America to the Middle East, according to excerpts from a report in the Spanish El Pais daily cited by Turkish media.

The huge amounts of cocaine seized recent weeks in Turkey despite low cocaine consumption in the country were mentioned in the report as evidence of the new route, reminding that the Turkish authorities seized 1,300 kilograms of cocaine in banana containers sent from Ecuador at Mersin port on June 16, and another shipment of cocaine, this time weighing 463 kilograms, in the same port just seven days later.

Almost five tons of cocaine seized last year in the Colombian port of Buenaventura and more than 1,000 kilograms seized in Panama’s Cristóbal port, including 500 grams confiscated aboard a vessel entering the Panama Canal a year earlier, were all bound for Turkey, the report said.

The crews of some vessels stopped by Spanish authorities in Atlantic waters on suspicion of cocaine trafficking in recent years were Turkish nationals.

“While this may seem appalling for a country not traditionally linked to this type of drug, Turkey’s name has recently been mentioned in cocaine trafficking routes,” El Pais said.

It was suggested that Turkish mafia groups established alliances with Sito Miñanco of Galicia or the Mexican Sinaloa cartel to get an upper hand in the distribution of cocaine in Europe and the Middle East.

The vessels using the new route travel around the cape of Africa and sail to the Mediterranean through the Suez Canal before reaching Turkey.

In addition to the huge amounts of cocaine seized in ports, Laurent Laniel from the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) drew attention to the fact that small amounts were also seized in more than 3,000 crackdowns in recent years, adding, “This means that Turkey has become a country where this drug is consumed in significant amounts, which was not the case 10 years ago.”

The report reminded that Kürşat Ayvatoğlu, an employee at Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) headquarters, had been briefly detained in recent months after a video emerged showing him snorting cocaine in a luxury car.

The Spanish daily’s article came after mob boss Sedat Peker had revealed the alleged involvement of the AKP in international cocaine trafficking.

Erkan Yıldırım, son of former vice president Binali Yıldırım, who is currently deputy chairman of the AKP, was part of a major drug trafficking ring involving Venezuela and Turkey, Peker had claimed in a video posted on YouTube.

According to Peker, 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 by Colombian authorities forced the Turkish drug network to find a new route via Venezuela.

Peker, the head of one of Turkey’s most powerful mafia groups who was once a staunch supporter of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has since early May been setting the country’s political agenda through videos he posts on YouTube, each of which reaches over a million viewers on the first day of their release. The mafia boss, who lives in Dubai and is the subject of an outstanding warrant in Turkey, has been making shocking revelations about state-mafia relations, drug trafficking and murders implicating state officials.

Peker’s claim about Erkan Yıldırım was immediately denied by his father, who said Peker was lying.

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