UN report supports claims by Turkish mafia boss over drug scheme

UN report supports claims by Turkish mafia boss over drug scheme
A UN report appears to confirm allegations made by an exiled Turkish mafia boss about government involvement in an international cocaine trafficking scheme. (File/AFP)
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Updated 28 May 2021

UN report supports claims by Turkish mafia boss over drug scheme

UN report supports claims by Turkish mafia boss over drug scheme
  • UN report: Drug dealing around the world took on new methods by using PPE as a cover to facilitate trafficking
  • Former prime minister denies claims over son’s Venezuela trips

JEDDAH: A UN report appears to confirm allegations made by an exiled Turkish mafia boss about government involvement in an international cocaine trafficking scheme.
According to Sedat Peker, who lives in Dubai, the son of Turkey’s former Prime Minister Binali Yildirim frequently traveled to Caracas in January and February to design a new trade route for drugs after nearly five tons of cocaine were seized last year by Colombia.
The UN report, which was released in February, said that drug dealing around the world took on new methods by using personal protective equipment as a cover to facilitate trafficking.
Yildirim denied Peker’s claims and said that his son, Erkan, traveled to personally deliver COVID-19 tests and protective equipment to those in need.
“It is an insult to link us with drugs,” Yildirim, who is now the deputy leader of the ruling Justice and Development Party, told reporters in Istanbul on May 23.
But there has been skepticism about his remarks as Venezuela had a low number of COVID-19 cases at the time of his son’s visit.
Journalist Cuneyt Ozdemir also revealed an official tweet from the Turkish embassy in Caracas from Dec. 7, 2020 that showed the son posing with the delegation that went to Venezuela as part of an official visit.
Prof. Sevil Atasoy, a Turkish member of the UN International Narcotics Control Board, said the February report showed how the pandemic had changed the illegal drug trade.
“They began using the mail or postal services, even protective masks, gloves and disinfectants to give the impression that they were trading medical equipment rather than drugs,” she said.
The report said the largest quantities of opiates were seized in Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Turkey.
“The Balkan route, which passed through Iran, Turkey and the Balkan countries on the way to destination markets in western and central Europe, remained the main route for the trafficking of opiates originating in Afghanistan,” it added.
Turkey’s opposition parties have put the government on the spot for its account on trade relations with Venezuela since last year, suggesting that these ties might serve as a cover for facilitating drug dealing.
The breakaway DEVA party, founded by Turkey’s former economy tsar and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s former confidant Ali Babacan, recently asked the government about the reason for lifting the tariff imposed on cheese from Venezuela, following Peker’s claims that Turkey was part of a significant cocaine trafficking scheme from the South American country.
Last August Turkey allowed, through a presidential decree, the import of food products, including all kinds of cheese, from Venezuela with a zero customs tariff.
The decision followed the visit of the country’s foreign minister to Venezuela a week before, while the decree was criticized by Turkish agriculture sector representatives at the time who said it would damage the industry.
The main opposition Republican People’s Party also asked the Turkish trade minister which politicians and their relatives were involved in cheese imports from Venezuela.
Peker is an ally-turned-foe of the government and an infamous organized crime boss who fled the country ahead of a criminal investigation into him. 
He has been releasing bombshell videos on YouTube for the past few weeks that have shaken domestic politics and leveled serious accusations against current and former politicians and bureaucrats associated with the government.