Illegal Gambling Bust in Turkey Leads to 46 Arrest Warrants, Cryptocurrency Seizure

Turkish police are in the process of dismantling a major illegal gambling ring operating freely across the country. The operations might have ties to Halil Falyalı, a Cypriot casino operator who was murdered earlier this year.

Turkish police patrol the streets in Istanbul. Law enforcement investigators have cracked a major illegal gambling operation that reportedly moved at least $134.5 million. (Image: The Washington Post)

The Office of the Chief Public Prosecutor released a statement saying that the Smuggling and Organized Crimes Investigation Bureau has a detention order in place for 46 suspects involved in the gambling outfit. They allegedly operate in eight provinces, but answer to a main hub in Ankara.

The suspects oversaw the transfer of money obtained from illegal betting, sending it to cryptocurrency accounts the gang created. Among the alleged accountholders were Falyalı, his wife and the casino manager.

Unraveling The Mystery

The suspects, according to the prosecutor’s statement, received around TRY2.5 billion (US$134.5 million) of money from the illegal activity. They transferred it to unidentified crypto exchanges and then to the crypto accounts of a group of 11 people. In total, they conducted 148 transactions without anyone noticing.

As a result of the investigation, authorities have already seized around US$40 million worth of crypto assets from different exchanges. Meanwhile, detention, search and seizure proceedings for the suspects continue.

Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu explained that investigators were able to trace the operations to Cyprus. He added that the paper trails indicate Falyali’s involvement and that additional arrests are forthcoming.

An ambush led to the assassination of Falyali in his car on February 8 of this year. He owned the Les Ambassadeurs Hotel & Casino, but also had deep ties with organized crime, according to media outlet BirGun.

In addition, he reportedly was responsible for operating an illegal drug trade, as well as laundering money. Turkish police arrested five people shortly after the murder, which may have provided intelligence that led to this week’s police activity.

England Responsible For Illegal Gambling

Soylu added that illegal betting comes out of England and Malta, spreading to the Balkans and Western Europe “like a cancer.” He emphasized the activity’s role in supporting criminal organizations and called on the rest of the world to take the matter more seriously.

The government official took the opportunity to address financial crime, as well. He called it a major risk to stability and, as such, wants Europe and the rest of the world to collaborate more on prevention. If they don’t, he asserted, individual countries will continue to have difficulty combatting it on their own.

He also took a jab at cryptocurrency. He asserted that there is an intrinsic link between crypto and illegal gambling, and that it’s time for governments to intervene.

Turkey doesn’t recognize crypto as a form of currency and prohibits its use as payment for legal transactions. However, Solyu pointed out that it is accessible virtually anywhere online, making it difficult to control.

At the same time, he praised the country’s Financial Crimes Investigation Board (MASAK, for its Turkish acronym) and the General Directorate of Security. He commended them for their swift response in uncovering an organization allegedly involved in drug smuggling, illegal gambling, money laundering and more.

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