Mafia-linked Turkish Cypriot businessman gunned down near his home
Turkish Cypriot businessman Halil Falyalı was killed in an armed attack in the coastal city of Girne on Tuesday evening.
Assailants fired on Falyalı’s car with automatic weapons as he left his home at around 7 p.m. local time. Falyalı died of multiple gunshot wounds in hospital. His chauffeur was also killed.
Falyalı, who owned the Les Ambassadors Hotel and Casino in Girne in the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), has been accused by exiled mobster Sedat Peker of conspiring with Erkam Yıldırım, son of former Turkish prime minister Binali Yıldırım, in an international drug trafficking ring.
Peker’s claims about government-Mafia relations, made in a series of YouTube videos last year, have sparked anger and denial from President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP). Peker said in May that Erkam Yıldırım worked with Falyalı to transport cocaine to Turkey from Panama. Binali Yıldırım served as prime minister between 2016 and 2018 and is a close confidant and friend of Erdoğan.
Falyalı was admitted to the Near East University Hospital with gunshot wounds in many parts of his body. He lost his life at 7:45 p.m. local time, said Müfit C. Yenen, a professor and the chief physician at the capital Nicosia’s YDÜ Hospital. Police have detained one suspect in connection with the murders, the local Yenidüzen newspaper reported on Wednesday.
Peker claimed Falyalı and Yıldırım’s trafficking operation received support from Mehmet Ağar, a former interior minister and police chief whose son Zülfü Tolga Ağar serves as a parliamentarian for Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). Peker implied that Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu also supported the network. All the accused have denied Peker’s allegations.
The attackers left the Mediterranean island by speedboat, Erk Acarer, a journalist for Turkish ArtıTV HABER, said on social media on Tuesday. Acarer shared a photo of two men in a car, captured by a surveillance camera, claiming that they were the suspects in the murders.
Falyalı was also facing criminal charges in the United States for laundering money from the sale of illegal drugs.
In March 2016, following five years of investigation by the U.S Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), Falyalı and his brother Hüsnü were indicted by federal prosecutors for laundering funds obtained from an international drug trafficking scheme. The Falyalı family was involved in running “a large-scale drug and weapons trafficking organisation” out of the TRNC and the brothers were “known to be associated with the Turkish mafia”, one federal agent said in an affidavit the previous year.
Falyalı and his associates have also been accused of crimes in Britain. In 2004, Falyalı was detained by the British police for allegedly threatening to kill a local Turkish business owner, according to a report in the Evening Standard newspaper. Falyalı pleaded not guilty and was acquitted after the alleged victim withdrew his complaint.