Erdoğan gov’t let drug traffickers go while punishing those who investigated them in Turkey

Turkish security forces seized 31 percent more drugs in 2009 than the previous year.

Abdullah Bozkurt

 

In a bizarre twist of events, the Turkish government launched a criminal probe into police chiefs who had exposed corrupt police officers on the payroll of a drug cartel and investigated drug smuggling networks that were moving heroin from Iran to Europe, classified documents have revealed.

According to documents that were stamped secret and obtained by Nordic Monitor, the government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan initiated both administrative and judicial probes into veteran police chiefs who had investigated key operatives in the drug gang, wiretapped their phones and exposed their operations, which led to major drug busts including the arrest of a major drug lord who lined up routes through Turkey for drug shipments to the Netherlands and Spain.

The investigation was launched after the police were tipped off about drug traffickers, prompting the investigators to obtain authorization to monitor communications of the drug gang in order to learn more about the network and identify more operatives in the trafficking gang.

The police intelligence filing with the court as part of the authorization request to wiretap the suspects on April 10, 2009 indicated that the investigators had determined that the drug trafficking gang was moving heroin from Turkey to Europe. The police stated that suspects Murat Nemutlu, a police chief who had been helping the drug cartel from the inside; Şevket Hidayet; Akif Bıyıklılar; and Yaşar Eşit were secretly meeting in Istanbul to send a new shipment destined for the Netherlands and Spain.

According to another secret intelligence note dated January 9, 2009, suspects identified as Şevket Hidayet and his sons Şıh Mehmet Hidayet and Halil Hidayet also worked together with notorious drug lord Habib Kanat to manufacture Captagon in an organized industrial complex in Istanbul’s Tuzla district and planned to move it to Syria and other Middle Eastern countries. The findings also pointed out that Syrian national Nazir Koja acted as an intermediary in the trafficking and Turkish nationals Mustafa Aral, Murat Nemutlu and Gafur Cem Cehdioğlu, all senior police chiefs, help the gang evade the bureaucracy.

 

Large amounts of marijuana were seized and destroyed in a counter-narcotics operation conducted in Diyarbakır ın August 2013.

 

Turkish national Orhan Çetin, who lives in the Netherlands, financed the operation. The couriers who would transport the drugs were identified as Ali Alper İlbay and Hüseyin Yıldırım.

Recep Güven, the then-deputy head of the intelligence branch in the police department, asked the court on January 12, 2009 to authorize warrants to wiretap the suspects’ phones, and the court approved the request on January 13, 2009. As the investigation expanded, the police identified more suspects in the gang -– Mustafa Kulak, Mehmet Naci Altaç, Settar Gürlek, Cengiz Özdemir and a man using the code name Fehmi. Their phones were also tapped on August 31, 2009.

 

Secret documents submitted to the court to obtain wiretap authorizations for drug traffickers:

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The investigation later turned into a judicial probe, with a Turkish prosecutor ordering the detention of the suspects with a judge’s approval in early September 2009. It was revealed that drug lord Kanat actually had some of the senior police officer on his payroll and was being informed of ongoing investigations from inside the police department. Among those incriminated were the Istanbul Police Narcotics Department’s Cehdioğlu, who admitted in his statement to prosecutors that Deputy National Police Chief Emin Arslan, who was in charge of the anti-smuggling unit, and drug baron Kanat had close ties. The two had frequent phone conversations. Kanat was using his contacts in the police department to get his rivals captured and expand his drug dealing network.

The officers informed Kanat about narcotics operations beforehand, allowing Kanat to hide evidence. This explained why he had been able to evade the authorities for years. Kanat was known to have been engaged in drug trafficking for eight years, but police could not detain him as they had no concrete evidence. Arslan was finally arrested on September 26, 2009 and put in prison pending trial.

The police operation that led to the detention of 12 suspects in the case resulted in the seizure of three tons of amphetamine, which is enough to produce nearly 200 million Captagon pills worth nearly TL 2 billion at the time. During the interrogation Arslan admitted to allegations that his son and Kanat’s daughter had established a company and that his son had a 20 percent share in the company. Arslan also said his son received a salary for his work in the company until he left because of disagreements just eight months after the company was established. However, there were more ties linking Arslan’s son and Kanat. Trade registry records showed that Kanat was chairman of the board of a company named Kalis Turizm, which is owned by Arslan.

Two other senior police chiefs who were on the payroll of the drug traffickers were Murat Enmutlu, a police chief who had worked in various positions in the Security General Directorate department tasked with combating smuggling and organized crime between 2000 and 2009, and Mustafa Aral, who worked in the Protection Department at the directorate in 2008, both of whom detained and later indicted. Enmutlu was held in prison for eight months pending trial, and Aral spent eight months in jail and was then released pending trial. Aral was later dismissed from the police department.

 

The intelligence note on Police Chief Mustafa Aral and his links to a drug cartel that led a court to authorize a wiretap of his phone:

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Chemical engineer Hüseyin Rıza Işık, who was suspected of having been responsible for the technical aspects of the drug production, was also among the detainees. Işık, who lectured at Beykent University and Istanbul University for many years, also worked as a drug expert for the Istanbul Police Narcotics Department for a time. He was arrested in 2007 for producing Ecstasy but was released after spending 14 months in jail. The 2009 police operation put him in prison for a second time.

Some of the suspects had already attracted the attention of the authorities early on. For example, a filing on September 24, 2008 pointed out that Turkish national Fikri Uslu was working with Ali İnal, Şıh Mehmet Hidayet, Şevket Hidayet, Mustafa Kanat and Murat Nemutlu in moving Iranian heroin to Europe. The suspect Nemutlu had been under surveillance since June 27, 2008, according to the paper trail, as he was accused of trying to move heroin from Pakistan and Iran to Europe through Turkey in cooperation with two other suspects named Fevzi Çakmak and Tahsin Çırak.

 

 

Legendary police chief Recep Güven, who cracked down on drug smuggling networks and brought drug lords to  justice. He was punished by the Erdoğan government for doing his job.

 

As a result of the investigations, Turkish authorities confiscated 31 percent more illegal substances in 2009 than the previous year, according to data from the National Police Department’s Anti-Organized Crime and Smuggling Department. Marijuana was the most frequently used illegal substance in Turkey and also the substance police seized most frequently in drug busts. Police data indicate a significant increase in both the amount of marijuana seized and the number of operations and arrests made in connection with marijuana possession and trafficking in 2009, a 25.2 percent increase over the previous year in the amount of marijuana seized, a 32.1 percent increase in marijuana drug-bust operations and a 27.1 percent increase in individuals charged with marijuana-related offenses.

In a separate drug investigation, police learned through an informant that an international drug trafficking network involving foreign national Eli Emilova Disheva and Turkish nationals Nazmi Korkmaz and Seyfettin Polat were involved in moving Captagon from Bulgaria to Turkey and later to countries in the Middle East. Upon requests filed by police chief Gursel Aktepe and his boss Güven on June 13, 2008, the court granted wiretap authorizations for the suspects. Police found that another foreign national, Ioseb Mamukashvili, worked with Turkish nationals Ramazan Picirici and Mustafa Mehmet Tosyali in moving heroin from Pakistan and Iran to Europe. The court renewed the request for a second time on September 18, 2008 for some of the suspects. Ugur Yilmaz was added to the list as a new suspect in the drug smuggling network.

 

More secret court and intelligence unit documents that show the trafficking network in Turkey:

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As police deepened the investigation into the drug traffickers, more operatives were exposed, prompting the police to seek wiretap authorizations for 13 suspects on January 12, 2009. The requests listed the following person as targets of the investigation: Ülker Merşan, Ömer Merşan (a Bulgarian national), Sayim Aslanlar, Senayi Doğan, Havıl Akın, Feride Güçlü, Mustafa Dalar, Selahattin İnce, Gafur Cehdioğlu, Nazır Koja (a Syria national), Hüseyin Yıldırım, Ali Alper İlbay and Orhan Çetin. The suspects were planning to move cocaine to Turkey after they obtained it from Lebanese suppliers who were connected to Peru. The shipment would be smuggled to Turkey by Serkan Yoğun, his father Bedi Yoğun and his uncle Malik Yoğun, who live in the border village of Mızraklı in Hatay province’s Samandağ district.

Another shipment of heroin from Pakistan and Iran to Europe was planned by a group of three drug traffickers — Banu Akçay, Fevzi Çakmak and an unidentified third person. The police filed a wiretap request for the suspects on March 28, 2008 that was approved by the court.

According to a June 27, 2008 filing, four people — Metin Çınar, Kuddusi Bilgiç, Emrah Havar and İsmail Durgut — were involved in shipping Captagon to Middle Eastern countries. According to a separate filing on the same day, the police suspected that drug traffickers composed of Emrah Havar Ramazan Ayan and Vedat Oğuz planned to bring a heroin shipment to Turkey and move it later to Europe through Russia.

Three more traffickers — Mehmet Ekinci, Volkan Kırım and Rıza Doğan — were identified by the police for moving heroin from Iran and Pakistan to Europe through Turkey in a filing that was made on June 27, 2008.

 

A trove of intelligence documents uncovering new drug trafficking networks in Turkey:

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A drug gang that had links to some influential people in Ankara was moving heroin obtained from Iran through Turkish customs according to a filing on September 24, 2009. The group consisted of Murat Agun, Hasan Cem Gülen and Savaş Özdeniz. A fourth person named Mustafa Aral, a 47-year-old Turkish national, was also monitored by the police, who obtained several wiretap authorizations for him in 2008 and 2009.

The veteran police chiefs in the intelligence unit who exposed the corrupt the police officers on the payroll of the drug lord and investigated the drug trafficking gangs across Turkey were punished by the Erdoğan government. The drug traffickers were released and crooked police officers were let go with the help of the government. Instead, figures such as the former head of the National Police Department Intelligence Unit, Ömer Altıparmak, and the former head of the Department of Communications, Coşkun Çakar, as well as several provincial police chiefs, including Diyarbakir Chief of Police Recep Güven, whose signature was on the wiretap requests approved by the court as part of the investigation into the drug cartels, faced dismissal, detention and indictment on dubious charges.

Other officers who were punished for going after drug cartels and criminal enterprises were listed as Ramazan Akyürek, Yunus Yazar, Hüseyin Özbilgin, Ayhan Falakalı, Gürsel Aktepe, İbrahim Tuka, Lokman Kırcalı, Tamer Bülent Demirel, Ramazan Karakaya, Ahmet Umit Seçgin, Mustafa Başer, Sadık Akpınarlı, Ali Arslantaş, Tamer Özbek, Yılmaz Angın, Harun Dağlı, Erdal Argın, Yusuf Ünal, Salih Keskinkılıç, Emre Baykal, Serkan Şahan, Timurtaş Kayacı, Muhammed Mustafa Aksoy, Seyit Gölcük, Ahmet Şentürk, Serhat Kadim, Adem Çoban, Mustafa Alptekin, Özgür Özden and Ali Ağılı. Many of these officers were put in jail on fabricated charges, while drug traffickers and their men inside the police department roam Turkey freely today.

 

Habib Kanat, the notorious drug lord.

 

Despite the lack of any evidence of wrongdoing, the detained law enforcement officers were questioned about the wiretapping of the drug traffickers and police officers who helped them out between 2007 and 2013. The officers and their lawyers stressed that all wiretapping was conducted under court order and that none was performed illegally. The questions that have drawn the strongest public reaction were those regarding audio recordings made in 2008 and 2009 of Kanat, also known as “Captagon,” the drug lord who was later detained in what was called the biggest drug operation in Turkish history. The detained intelligence officers questioned this line of unexpected questioning, explaining that they were only doing their  job when wiretapping Kanat and his associate, former Deputy General Director of the Security General Directorate Aslan.

 

The intelligence documents that were submitted to the court to uncover a drug trafficking network that ships drugs to Europe and other places from Turkey:

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