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37 detained in İstanbul in operation targeting outlaw motorcycle gang

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Thirty-seven people with alleged links to the “Comanchero Motorcycle Club,” an outlaw motorcycle gang based in Australia and Southeast Asia, including its alleged leader Hakan Ayık, have been detained in an operation in İstanbul, Turkey’s interior minister has announced.

Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya on Thursday announced on X, formerly known as Twitter, that 44-year-old Ayık, who is listed on the New South Wales Police website as among its “most wanted persons” for supplying large commercial quantities of drugs, was detained along with 36 others.

The detentions included some individuals sought by authorities in the United States and New Zealand.

Yerlikaya wrote on X that Mick Hawki, the former alleged leader of the bike crime organization, was killed in 2018.

According to the minister, the gang continued to commit crimes such as “international drug trafficking, homicide, armed robbery, arson, kidnapping and criminal asset laundering” on an international scale under the leadership of Mark Douglas Buddle.

Yerlikaya added that after Buddle was apprehended in 2022 in northern Cyprus and subsequently handed over to Australian authorities, Ayik and Duax Hohepa Ngakuru, also one of the detainees, took over the organization’s leadership and “continued the criminal activities of the organization.”

He said the operation was carried out by the İstanbul police under the coordination of the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office and on charges that include “forming an organization for criminal activities, becoming a member of such an organization, international drug trafficking and criminal asset laundering” and that as a result of the operation, the assets belonging to approximately 55 suspects, valued at around TL 4.5 billion ($250 million), were seized by the İstanbul 3rd Criminal Court of Peace.

According to a report by the Guardian on Thursday, a spokesperson for the Australian Federal Police (AFP) said it was “aware” of the reporting from Turkey and continued to work with international partners to combat transnational serious organized crime.

They said the AFP had supported the Turkish national police through Operation Gain and the AFP’s post in Ankara.

“The AFP acknowledges the Turkish national police for undertaking one of the most significant operations targeting alleged transnational serious organized criminals, some of whom are accused of illicit drug trafficking to Australia and around the world,” they said, adding that Turkey was “a regional leader” in the global fight against serious transnational organized crime.

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