Posted on: January 21, 2024, 10:14h.
Last updated on: January 21, 2024, 10:14h.
A Turkish gangster has been given two life sentences after an Istanbul court found him guilty of premeditated murder in relation to the 2022 shooting death of Northern Cyprus casino owner Halil Falyalı.
Mustafa Söylemez was also convicted of “forming and leading a criminal organization.” His brother, Mehmet Faysal Söylemez, also an alleged underworld figure, was cleared of the same charges.
Three other defendants, Abdurrahim Çelik, Cengiz Şener, and Ender Yıldız, were each sentenced to 25 years in prison for “assisting in premeditated murder” and “membership in a criminal organization.”
Falyalı died in a hail of bullets in February 2022 after his motorcade was ambushed by men with Kalashnikovs in the village of Çatalköy, Northern Cyprus. His driver, Murat Demirtaş, was also killed in the attack. The murders were witnessed by Falyalı’s wife and children, who were traveling in a different vehicle and were unhurt.
Falyalı owned the five-star Les Ambassadeurs Hotel & Casino in Northern Cyprus and was a big shot in the local online gambling industry.
In 2015, the US government accused Falyalı of being part of a drug trafficking operation that flooded the UK with heroin. A year later, the DOJ charged him with laundering the proceeds of narcotics sales within the US.
He never faced justice because neither the US nor the UK have an extradition treaty with Northern Cyprus, a de facto state recognized only by Turkey.
Prior to his killing, Falyalı had been named by Turkish Mafia figure Sedat Peker as a vital cog in an international cocaine trafficking operation with links to prominent Turkish politicians. Peker claimed vast quantities of the drug were shipped to Turkey from Venezuela and then to the Middle East, and the profits were laundered by Falyalı in his casinos.
Peker also claimed that Falyalı enjoyed power and influence because he held “obscene tapes,” featuring various politicians who had been secretly filmed while they were staying at his hotel.
Peker is currently in exile in the United Arab Emirates, where he has detailed the alleged engagement of government figures in illegal “Deep State” activities through a series of YouTube videos.
In the 1990s, the Söylemez brothers fought a brutal war for the control of arms and drug trafficking in eastern Turkey. In one incident, authorities disrupted a plot that involved the brothers attacking a rival politician from a helicopter with flame throwers.
After Turkish authorities issued a warrant for their arrest in 2004, the brothers fled to northern Iraq, and then to Azerbaijan, but returned to Turkey shortly before the killing. The exact motive for the murder remains unclear.