Kemal Kilicdaroglu

Opposition Claims Turkey Flooded by Gangster ‘Black Money’

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By Andrew Wilks

ISTANBUL (Al-Monitor) — The arrest of one of Europe’s most wanted criminals in Istanbul has fueled opposition claims that Turkey is being flooded with “black money” from abroad amid a growing need for foreign cash.

Zeljko Bojanic, an alleged senior figure in the Montenegrin mafia involved in cocaine smuggling, was seized in Istanbul’s upmarket Sariyer neighborhood on Friday, November 4, the city’s Anti-Organized Crime Branch said in a statement Monday, November 7.

Excavations were carried out at Bojanic’s luxury villa in search of the body of a rival Serbian drug smuggler who disappeared two years ago. Police said nothing was found.

The arrest of Bojanic, who was on Europol’s most wanted list and is said to have arrived in Turkey with a fake North Macedonian passport, came days after opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu accused the government of turning a blind eye to an influx of illicit funds.

“I said black money brings its owner. All the mafia scum in the world came to our cities with their money,” Kilicdaroglu, who heads the Republican People’s Party (CHP), tweeted Sunday. “Now a body search is carried out in the gardens. What you see is just a grain of sand in the sea.”

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Last week Kilicdaroglu posted a video accusing President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s administration of failing to stop drug lords from moving their fortunes to Turkey.

“They allowed all kinds of black money to enter the country,” he said. “They said ‘Bring it, no matter where you bring it from, I will not ask for its source,’ and they used this dirty money, billions of dollars — in other words, drug money — to finance Turkey’s current account deficit.”

The CHP leader went on to dub Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu as “Breaking Bad Suleyman,” a reference to the TV show following the escapades of a chemistry teacher who becomes a major methamphetamine producer.

“Breaking Bad Suleyman has allowed the children of the country to be poisoned,” he said, warning of a “methamphetamine epidemic.” Soylu refuted the claims as slander and Kilicdaroglu later became the first person to be charged under a controversial new “disinformation” law. He faces up to three years in prison if found guilty of “publicly disseminating misleading information.”

The Financial Action Task Force, a global watchdog monitoring efforts to combat the movement of dirty money, added Turkey to its “grey list” last year over deficiencies in its system for countering money laundering and terror financing.

Task force president Marcus Pleyer told a news conference that Turkey needed to address “serious issues of supervision” in its banking, real estate, gold and gemstone sectors.

The move delivered a further blow to Turkey’s troubled economy, threatening to erode legitimate foreign investment. According to New York University’s The Economics Review, the listing could have wiped more than $76 billion off Turkey’s capital inflows and foreign direct investment.

Bojanic is said to be a leading figure in the powerful Kavac clan of Montenegro’s mafia. He has been implicated in the killing of Risto Mijanovic, a member of the rival Skaljari clan who went missing two years ago.

The gangs, based in neighboring towns in Montenegro’s Kotor region, have been engaged in an eight-year feud that has led to at least 50 deaths. Skaljari boss Jovan Vukotic was shot dead in Istanbul’s Sisli district in September.

The Kavac and Skaljari clans developed following a split in the Kotor crime group that had been led by Dragan Dudic. Bojanic is said to have acted as Dudic’s right-hand man until his murder in 2010.

Criminals from the Kotor region feature prominently in the cocaine trade between South America and Europe. They have offshoots across the Balkans, especially in Serbia, as well as import transit countries such as Spain and Italy. They are also present in other European territories as well as Brazil, Ecuador and Uruguay.

Bojanic was reportedly on the run since Slovenian authorities issued an arrest warrant over his alleged involvement in a drug trafficking operation in Slovenia, Brazil and Austria in 2014 and 2015.

In recent years Turkey has emerged as a key route for cocaine trafficking as law enforcement crackdowns and tightened port security in Europe have forced smugglers to seek alternate routes.

“We will see more such incidents and conflicts within the framework drawn by Kilicdaroglu as long as black money is not traced and is not abolished,” crime journalist Cengiz Erdinc told Halk TV. “The gangs are doing as they like in Istanbul.”

Questioning how Bojanic was able to live in Istanbul, Erdinc added, “He came with assets and obviously bought a villa for several million dollars. But no one asked ‘Where did you get these few million dollars?’”

 

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