Published on: January 21, 2024, 10:14h.
Last updated on: January 21, 2024, 10:14h.
A Turkish gangster must face two life sentences after being convicted of premeditated murder in connection with the 2022 shooting death of Northern Cyprus casino owner Halil Falyalı.
Mustafa Söylemez was additionally found guilty of “forming and leading a criminal organization.” His brother, Mehmet Faysal Söylemez, another suspected underworld figure, was acquitted of the same charges.
Three other defendants, Abdurrahim Çelik, Cengiz Şener, and Ender Yıldız, each received 25 years in jail for “assisting in premeditated murder” and “membership in a criminal organization.”
Falyalı was killed in a hail of bullets in February 2022 when his motorcade was attacked by gunmen with Kalashnikovs in the village of Çatalköy, Northern Cyprus. His driver, Murat Demirtaş, was also slain in the assault. Falyalı’s wife and children witnessed the murders from a separate vehicle and were unharmed.
Falyalı owned the Les Ambassadeurs Hotel & Casino in Northern Cyprus and was a major player 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 was never brought to justice because neither the US nor the UK holds an extradition treaty with Northern Cyprus, a de facto state recognized only by Turkey.
Prior to his murder, Turkish Mafia figure Sedat Peker had named Falyalı as a key player in an international cocaine trafficking operation with connections to prominent Turkish politicians. Peker asserted that significant quantities of the drug were shipped to Turkey from Venezuela and then to the Middle East, with the profits being laundered by Falyalı in his casinos.
Peker also alleged that Falyalı held “obscene tapes” containing recordings of various politicians who had been secretly filmed during their stays at his hotel.
Peker is currently in exile in the United Arab Emirates, where he has revealed the alleged involvement of government officials in illegal “Deep State” activities through a series of YouTube videos.
In the 1990s, the Söylemez brothers engaged in a fierce battle for control of arms and drug trafficking in eastern Turkey. In one incident, authorities thwarted a plan in which the brothers had attempted to attack a rival politician from a helicopter with flamethrowers.
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 murder. The exact motive for the killing remains unclear.