A Turkish court has arrested Ayhan Bora Kaplan, a mob boss known for his alleged close ties to former Turkish interior minister Süleyman Soylu, following his detention in Ankara while trying to leave the country with several associates, the T24 news website reported on Tuesday.
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 Esenboğan Airport on Sept. 7 while they were in the middle of their alleged escape plan. A police chief identified as N.A.Ç. was also detained, raising the total number of people taken into custody as part of the investigation to 29.
According to T24, Kaplan, who was referred to court late on Monday, was arrested on charges that include “forming a criminal organization,” “intentional injury,” “armed robbery,” “deprivation of liberty” and “torture.”
Thirteen more people were arrested as part of the same investigation, while 15 of the detainees, including N.A.Ç., were released under judicial supervision.
The Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office made a statement about the detentions and arrests as part of the investigation into the mob boss, also announcing to the public that “efforts to substantiate the alleged commission of other crimes by the criminal organization are being meticulously pursued.”
The detention of Kaplan and the others 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 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.
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.