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Mob boss with alleged ties to Turkey’s former interior minister detained in Ankara

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Ayhan Bora Kaplan, a mob boss known for his alleged close ties to former Turkish interior minister Süleyman Soylu, was detained in Ankara while trying to leave the country with several associates, the T24 news website reported on Friday.

Kaplan’s associates included a retired soldier known only by the initials U.P. and his lawyer G.Ü. as well as A.K. and O.S.

Authorities detained the group at Esenboğa Airport while they were in the middle of their alleged escape plan. Kaplan is facing serious torture charges after a complaint was filed against him. His brother, Muhammet Kaplan, and a person named B.K. remain at large.

The detentions come amid significant changes within the police force after Soylu was removed from the post of interior minister.

During Soylu’s tenure, Turkey faced allegations of involvement in international drug trafficking, primarily driven by Turkish mob boss Sedat Peker. In a series of dramatic videos in 2021, Peker accused Soylu and other high-ranking officials of protecting and facilitating cocaine trafficking networks.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s recent re-election victory and a subsequent cabinet reshuffle have led to speculation among critics who claim that the new Interior Ministry leadership may no longer provide cocaine traffickers with the protection they enjoyed during Soylu’s time in office.

The detention unfolded as Ankara police were conducting a nighttime operation. During a search of the vehicle in which Kaplan and U.P. were traveling, authorities seized 50,000 euros, $800 and 10,300 Turkish lira in cash as well as two handguns. Kaplan’s lawyer G.Ü, and his associates A. K. and O. S. were apprehended at the Polatlı exit of the city. During a search of Kaplan’s office, other assets were seized, including 1,150 grams of gold and significant amounts of various currencies hidden in a safe.

After T24 reported Kaplan’s arrest, highlighting his ties to Soylu, the former interior minister accused certain media outlets on X, formerly known as Twitter, of defamation and “character assassination.”

Soylu announced that he would file a criminal complaint against the people behind the report.

The detentions came a week after Kaplan was seen in a video energetically celebrating at a lavish event in Ankara marking his son’s circumcision.

The ceremony was a grand display attended by famous Turkish singer Sibel Can. The event, characterized by a display of luxury cars, served to accentuate the connections and extent of the network of Kaplan, who expanded his influence cultivated under Soylu’s patronage, according to investigative journalist Cevheri Güven, who elaborated on Kaplan’s network in a YouTube video he posted on Thursday.

Among the notable attendees of the event was Necati Arabacı, a high-ranking member of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club and a well-known figure in both the Turkish and German criminal underworlds.

Arabacı, a German Turk, faced several criminal charges, including human trafficking and racketeering, in Germany before being deported to Turkey in 2007. He continued his criminal activities in Turkey, associating with international Hells Angels bosses and even being seen as a potential leader for the European branch of the group.

His presence at the event underlines the serious and potentially dangerous connections Kaplan has, Güven told Turkish Minute.

“Over the past decade, as Turkey has steadily drifted away from democratic principles, it has simultaneously transformed into a hub for mafia groups, with many mafia leaders from Europe and the Balkans beginning to direct their organizations from İstanbul,” Güven said.

“Kaplan, a name frequently associated with drug trafficking, emerged over the past decade, exponentially growing and strengthening his group largely due to his connections to Süleyman Soylu,” he added.

“Kaplan’s Ankara-based organization, which benefited significantly from a wide network in both the police and judiciary, might just be the tip of the iceberg, hinting at a more extensive criminal organization involving high-ranking law enforcement officers, members of the judiciary and politicians,” the journalist further stated.

“While the current political tension between Soylu and Erdoğan has seen numerous bureaucrats losing their jobs, the leaders of criminal organizations close to Soylu have remained untouched. Kaplan’s arrest is unprecedented in this regard. However, I doubt the government will go too deep; this seems more like a step to weaken Soylu’s power rather than a genuine effort to dismantle the criminal network,” Güven speculated.

Kaplan’s name was in the spotlight in 2022 when investigative journalist Ahmet Dönmez was attacked and hospitalized by unidentified people in Stockholm after claiming in a YouTube video that Kaplan was under Soylu’s protection. Dönmez said he received threats after the video was published and was subsequently attacked.

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