Posted on: February 11, 2022, 09:11h.
Last updated on: February 11, 2022, 09:11h.
Turkish police have arrested a notorious gangster in relation to the February 8 assassination of a Turkish Cypriot casino owner who himself had links to organized crime.
Halil Falyalı was killed in a drive-by shooting when the motorcade he was traveling in was sprayed with bullets by unknown gunmen as it entered the village of Çatalköy in the de facto state of Northern Cyprus. Falyalı’s driver, Murat Demirtaş, was also killed in the attack.
According to the Demirören News Agency (DHA), police on the Turkish mainland have arrested five people in connection with the crime. Among them is Mustafa Söylemez, leader of an infamous criminal organization known as the Söylemez Brothers.
Reign of Terror
The gang achieved notoriety in the 1990s when it fought rival organizations for control of arms and drugs trafficking in Turkey via a campaign of kidnap and murder. Many of its members, including Mustafa Söylemez and his brother, Faysal, were arrested and imprisoned in 1996.
Prosecutors said at the time they were planning to attack a rival from a helicopter using flamethrowers.
But they were released in 2002 as part of a widespread amnesty designed to ease a prison overpopulation crisis that had sparked protests and hunger strikes among inmates.
A warrant was issued for their rearrest in 2004, and the brothers fled to northern Iraq, and later Azerbaijan. Turkish media has expressed surprise at Mustafa Söylemez’s reappearance in Turkey.
He was detained in Istanbul on February 9.
Who Was Halil Falyalı?
Falyalı owned the five-star Les Ambassadeurs Hotel & Casino in Cyprus, as well as a slew of illegal online betting sites, according to Istanbul-based newspaper BirGun.
When Turkey criminalized online gambling, Northern Cyprus became a base for gaming sites illegally targeting the mainland, and Falyalı cashed in, BirGun explained.
In 2015, Falyalı was accused by the US government of being part of an operation that was trafficking heroin into the UK. A year later, he was charged with money laundering for washing the proceeds of drug sales in the US.
However, he couldn’t be extradited because the US does not recognize Northern Cyprus as an independent state.
Meanwhile, investigators are examining whether his death could be linked to the January 28 killing Safak Mahmutyazicioglu. The lawyer and former director of Turkish soccer giant Besiktas was gunned down in a seafood restaurant he owned in the Yeşilköy district of Istanbul.
According to several reports in the Turkish media, Mahmutyazicioglu and Falyalı were partners in an online betting company.
Mahmutyazicioglu was married to Ece Erken, a famous Turkish TV actress and presenter.