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Turkish deputy FM co-owned firm with mob boss sought by Turkey: report

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Turkey’s Deputy Foreign Minister Yasin Ekrem Serim was a company partner with a Turkish Cypriot mob boss who was killed last year while he was being sought by Turkey over illegal gambling, the Halk TV news website reported, citing an official document.

Halil Falyalı, who owned several casinos and hotels in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (KKTC), a self-proclaimed state on the Turkish side of Cyprus, died in an attack that took place in front of his house in Kyrenia in February 2022. He allegedly had shady relations with Turkish government figures.

In May 2011 a US district court in Virginia charged Falyalı with money laundering and drug trafficking. The trial was concluded in absentia in 2016, and Falyalı was found guilty. He has been wanted by US authorities ever since, the reason Falyalı never left the KKTC. Enjoying considerable influence over the small island with his multibillion-dollar fortune, Falyalı managed to avoid any handover to the US.

According to Halk TV, Deputy Foreign Minister Serim and his brother Halil İbrahim Serim together held 10 percent of the shares in a company called Northern Associates Trading Limited, established on December 22, 2020. Falyalı owned the remaining 90 percent.

The Serim brothers’ father, Maksut Serim, is a former aide to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and is currently a manager at state-lender Halkbank. Maksut also served as an aide to Erdoğan for an uninterrupted 12 years when the Turkish leader held the office of prime minister. Their relationship dates back to when Erdoğan was mayor of İstanbul in the ’90s.

Erdoğan also served as a witness at Yasin Ekrem’s wedding in 2014.

According to the Halk TV report, the company was involved in various fields, including real estate, construction, machinery import and export and the operation of restaurants, bars, nightclubs and discotheques.

Falyalı came to public attention in Turkey in May 2021, when notorious Turkish mob boss Sedat Peker had alleged while exposing the Turkish government’s involvement in international cocaine trafficking that the drug was being shipped to Turkey from Venezuela and then to the Middle East on luxury yachts, while the profits were laundered in the KKTC by Falyalı.

According to Peker, Erkan Yıldırım, the son of senior ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) politician Binali Yıldırım, former minister Mehmet Ağar and Falyalı were running the cocaine operation, while Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu afforded them immunity. The revenue was laundered through Falyalı’s casinos in the KKTC and on online betting sites before being injected into Turkey’s economy.

Peker had also said Falyalı was influential in Erdoğan’s government and that he possessed sex tapes of a number of politicians and bureaucrats whom he hosted at his luxury hotels in Cyprus.

In November the state-run Anadolu news agency reported that some $30 million in cryptocurrency on the Malta cryptocurrency exchange that belonged to Falyalı had been seized upon a demand from the Turkish authorities as part of an investigation into an illegal gambling ring.

In December Anadolu again reported that Turkish prosecutors had issued detention warrants for 163 people with links to the deceased Falyalı for allegedly engaging in illegal gambling.

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