Police launched two separate operations against organized crime in the early hours of Thursday, with arrest warrants issued for dozens of suspects.
The biggest operation targeted coastal cities and fittingly, it was dubbed “mucilage,” named after a thick layer of a harmful substance that choked life in the country’s Marmara Sea last year. In 16 cities littoral to the country’s seas, police raided several locations to capture 315 suspects in simultaneous operations. The Anti-Smuggling and Organized Crime Department of the Turkish National Police (KOM) coordinated the operations in Adana, Antalya, Aydın, Balıkesir, Bursa, Çanakkale, Istanbul, Izmir, Mersin, Muğla, Yalova, Artvin, Giresun, Ordu, Samsun and Zonguldak.
The suspects are accused of running or working for “mafia-like criminal organizations” and/or supplying arms to those groups. The operations aimed to “clear out” criminal elements in those cities ahead of the high tourism season, according to Turkish media outlets. Some suspects were accused of extorting money from tourism facilities like hotels or forcibly taking control of businesses. Others are accused of extorting several businesses and defrauding people by using fake IDs under the names of state officials. Some are charged with fraud using fake call centers they set up. Police determined 13 separate criminal organizations involved in those crimes earlier. Another 17 gangs are accused of supplying illegal arms to those groups.
In Istanbul, a separate operation was launched by organized crime units against 74 suspects. With the assistance of Special Operations police, police squads raided two criminal organizations that were active in the Avcılar, Beylikdüzü and Esenyurt districts on the city’s European side. The suspects are accused of running a criminal organization, robbery, inflicting injury, drug trade and forced prostitution. The number of detainees was not clear yet but police confirmed E.U. and E.K., two leaders of the criminal organization, were captured.
Along with gangs’ “area of operation” in three Istanbul districts, raids took place in the districts of Fatih, Sultangazi and Başakşehir. Police seized a large cache of weapons and drugs in simultaneous raids.
Fight against organized crime is a priority for the Interior Ministry of the country, where mobsters have gotten away with lenient sentences and had close ties to prominent figures, including politicians and intelligence services, in the past. Until the late 1990s, gang shootings were common, especially in big cities. Though the killings continued into the 2000s, mafia figures of past decades appear to lose power, with many jailed. In the past six years, security forces ended the activities of 358 criminal gangs, including 30 operating nationwide, through continuous operations.