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“Turkish mafia controls 20% of the cocaine market in the Middle East”

According to the research conducted by Insight Crime, an organization that investigates organized crime in Colombia, which is the center of international cocaine trafficking with an annual production of 1,200 tons, Turkish mafia controls 20% of the cocaine reaching the Middle East, Bold Media reported. Insight Crime officials stated that they have deepened their research following the allegations of Sedat Peker’s cocaine shipments to Turkey and the involvement of the AKP government in drug trafficking.

According to the 2023 Global Cocaine Report published by the United Nations, approximately 62% of global cocaine production takes place in Colombia, making it the most important country in international drug trade with an annual production of over 1,200 tons.

An investigation published by Insight Crime, a Colombia-based organization that researches global organized crime, particularly drug trafficking, reveals that Turkey’s role in intercontinental cocaine trade has increased. Alessandro Ford, the author of the investigation, attributes the increase in the amount of cocaine destined for Turkey in recent times in Latin America to the fact that Turkish drug smugglers, known as significant actors in heroin trade to Europe, have turned to cocaine trade due to the drop in opium prices.

Ford, speaking to VOA Turkish, says, “Turkey offers excellent opportunities for cocaine trade due to its existing drug infrastructure, experience gained from heroin trade, and connections with criminal organizations. The only thing missing for the cocaine route was Latin America’s powdered sugar.”

Although Turkish mafia provides a significant advantage in drug distribution in Europe through Turkish diaspora residing in Europe, Ford mentions that the largest cocaine importer in Europe is the Italy-based Ndrangheta mafia. He states that Turkish criminal organizations are competing with Spanish, Dutch, and Irish groups.

“Our research indicates that Turkish drug smugglers have a greater advantage and market share in the Middle East compared to Europe. Approximately 20% of the cocaine destined for the Middle East is controlled by Turkish groups,” says Ford.

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Insight Crime officials, interviewed by VOA Turkish, state that their interest in Turkey began with the violation of the US ban on gold and oil trade with Venezuela. They mention that they have deepened their research following Sedat Peker’s allegations of cocaine shipments to Turkey and the claims of AKP government’s involvement in drug trafficking.

Even in Colombia, the world’s largest cocaine exporter, the seizure of 4.9 tons of cocaine intended to be sent to Turkey in a single shipment in 2020 is considered an uncommon occurrence, according to experts. The expert speculates that such a large shipment is likely to be distributed among several criminal organizations.

“We estimate that almost all of the seized cocaine was intended to be transported to Europe, the Caucasus, and the Middle East via Turkey, with only a small amount intended for the domestic market,” says Ford. He also mentions that cocaine reaching Turkey is predominantly transported to Europe via sea routes and to the Middle East via land routes.

According to Insight Crime’s research, while cocaine is mainly sent to Turkey from Colombia, Ecuador, and Panama, Brazil and Venezuela, which are also observed in both air and sea shipments, are important hubs for cocaine shipments to Turkey.

It is known that some criminal organizations, such as Albanian gangs in Ecuador, Serbian groups in Brazil, and Italian mafia in Costa Rica, are involved in cocaine trade in Latin America. However, Alessandro Ford states that they have not witnessed direct operations of Turkish-origin criminal organizations in Colombia or other Latin American countries.

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