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Turkey seizes 610 kilograms of cocaine hidden in banana shipment from Ecuador

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Teams from the Turkish narcotics police have seized 610 kilograms of cocaine hidden in a container of bananas from Ecuador in the southern province of Mersin, Turkey’s Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya announced on Friday.

Three people, including the owner of the company that was to receive the banana shipment, have been detained in connection with the incident, Yerlikaya announced on X, formerly known as Twitter.

He also posted a short video showing the police operation at the Mersin International Port, reiterating his pledge to crack down on drug traffickers across the country.

Since Yerlikaya was appointed interior minister in a new cabinet announced in June, replacing Süleyman Soylu, police operations targeting crime gangs and drug traffickers have gained momentum.

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.

An extensive operation by Turkish law enforcement against an international cocaine smuggling ring that resulted in the detention of 23 suspects and the seizure of assets exceeding 1 billion Turkish lira in June has thrust Turkey’s perceived involvement in the global drug trade into the spotlight, leading to conjecture about the impact of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s cabinet shakeup.

Data from a 2023 United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) report underscored Turkey’s rising prominence as a transit country for illicit drugs, particularly cocaine. The report revealed a sevenfold surge in drug seizures in Turkey since 2014, paralleling a 35 percent global increase in coca bush cultivation between 2021 and 2022. Drug seizures in Turkey reached a record high of 2.8 tons in 2021.

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