Turkish authorities seized 242 kilograms of cocaine aboard a ship arriving at the country’s northwestern port of Tekirdağ, local media reported on Sunday, citing a tweet by Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu.
According to Soylu, the Security Directorate General and the Coast Guard Command carried out a joint operation at Tekirdağ port on Sunday, seizing 242 kilograms of cocaine aboard a merchant ship they had been tracking for a month. The minister also shared video coverage of the find on Twitter.
Acting on intelligence concerning a drug shipment, security officials made the seizure over the weekend when they searched the Marshall Islands-flagged merchant ship Robusta, which departed Brazil on July 4, the Turkish Coast Guard Command said in a statement.
The Justice and Development Party (AKP) government has been criticized for failing to take action in the face of huge amounts of cocaine that have been seized in Turkey in the past few years despite low cocaine consumption in the country.
According to excerpts from a June 27, 2021 report in the Spanish El Pais daily that were cited by Turkish media, Turkey is part of a new drug trafficking route from Latin America to the Middle East.
The daily reminded that Turkish authorities seized 1,300 kilograms of cocaine in banana containers sent from Ecuador at Mersin port on June 16, 2021, and another shipment of cocaine, this time 463 kilograms, in the same port just seven days later.
Almost five tons of cocaine seized in 2020 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, it said.
The crews of some vessels stopped by Spanish authorities in Atlantic waters on suspicion of cocaine trafficking in recent years were Turkish nationals.
Şeyhmus Özkan, the board chairman of ACM Holding who was detained in Turkey on Dec. 29, 2021, as part of an investigation into 1.3 tons of cocaine Brazilian authorities seized on a plane operated by his company in the summer of the same year, was released without charges two days later.
Brazilian police in August 2021 seized 1.3 tons of cocaine stashed in 24 suitcases and belonging to 60-year-old Spanish-Belgian dual national Angel Alberto Gonzalez Valdes, who boarded a private jet operated by Turkish carrier ACM Air, owned by ACM Holding, at Leite Lopes Airport in Ribeirão Preto. The plane was headed to Belgium via Lisbon.
Local media reports said at the time that Özkan’s Instagram account became active in the wake of his detention, and a number of photos were posted showing him with Minister Soylu and vehicle manufacturer BMC’s owner Ethem Sancak, a former member of the AKP executive body and an ardent supporter of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, a move interpreted by many as an attempt by the businessman to use his links to the AKP government for his release from detention.
The Brazilian police’s crackdown on drug smuggling came after Turkish mob boss Sedat Peker had revealed last year the alleged involvement of Turkey’s ruling AKP in international cocaine trafficking, claiming that Turkey had become part of a new route for cocaine smuggling thanks to the efforts of Turkey’s ruling politicians.
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 in late May 2021.
According to Peker, Erkan Yıldırım traveled to the Venezuelan capital of Caracas in January and February 2021 to establish a new drug trafficking route following a raid in Colombia in 2020 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.