According to the Global Organised Crime Index 2021,  “Turkey has become known as the Mafia state and evidence suggests that this is the case now more than ever.” Turkey was ranked 12th worst country in the world, even worse than Syria. It was reported that organised crime and state embedded individuals have extremely strong and complex links, dating back to many decades and continuing to today.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government often leverages certain criminal markets such as gold and oil trade, human smuggling and arms trafficking for its own benefit and political purposes. Latest reports point out that the extent of such criminal activities has increased so much so that the country has become a safe haven for crime bosses from the region and beyond – due to lack of legislation and inadequate action by the Erdoğan government.

A wave of foreign mobster violence is increasing in Turkey with journalists reporting that upscale restaurants in Istanbul and Antalya have become meeting points of the Russian speaking Mafia, involving Russian, Georgian, Azerbaijani and other gangs. The purpose of their meetings is not restricted to make important decisions and have such discussions but also for rituals to ‘coronate’ senior mobsters as “thief-in-law” – a status of authority over others who are ranked lower.

A main reason for such crimes thriving in Turkey is lax legislation which makes it easy and attractive for criminals to enter the country and obtain residence permits. Turkey introduced a law which allows a foreigner to gain citizenship just by investing $400,000 into real estate which leads to a lot of black money entering into Turkey along with these crime bosses who then foster ties with bureaucrats, police and politicians, and even set up companies with locals to launder money. Turkey does not even have proper agreements on the extradition of criminals with countries. In a report published in August 2021, the Stockholm Centre for Freedom detailed how Turkish government under Erdoğan has abused INTERPOL in various ways.

Crimes in Turkey ranges from illegal trade to human trafficking to drugs smuggling to forced labour. Under Erdoğan, Turkey has become a key player in transnational markets of crime. Criminals all over Europe are not ‘migrating’ but ‘fleeing’ to Turkey and then live in relaxed environments to run their operations.