| 16 July 2024, Tuesday |

Turkey arrests alleged Australia drug kingpin in big crime bust

Turkey said on Thursday it had captured Hakan Ayik, a top fugitive wanted in Australia for drug smuggling, and 36 others involved in an international organized crime ring that has also been pursued by U.S. and New Zealand authorities.

Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya said the detentions in Istanbul targeted the armed motorcycle gang Comanchero that he said was allegedly involved in drug trafficking, manslaughter, looting and money laundering globally.

Dubbed the “Facebook gangster” in Australia, Ayik has been on the most wanted list in New South Wales state for more than a decade for the “supply of large commercial quantities of drugs”.

The FBI has said he unwittingly helped authorities monitor and arrest hundreds of suspected criminals in recent years using an FBI-run phone app.

Ayik, also known as Reis, and Duax Hohepa Ngakuru, have led the crime ring since at least last year, Yerlikaya said on the social media platform X. Ayik is wanted by U.S. and Australian authorities while Ngakuru, who was also arrested, is wanted in New Zealand, he said.

Istanbul’s chief public prosecutor filed a lawsuit against the Comanchero bike gang alleging it laundered its assets in Turkey. The drug trade spanned South America, Australia, the Netherlands, Hong Kong, South Korea and South Africa, Yerlikaya said.

Reuters was not immediately able to contact a spokesperson for Ayik at an Istanbul hotel where, in 2021, staff had confirmed he was the owner.

Turkey’s government published a video of the arrests showing armed special agents and narcotics officers banging on doors of apartments and houses, arresting various men and seizing hand guns and stacks of foreign bank notes.

The video includes an image of a man it says is Ayik, who is seen kneeling, handcuffed and shirtless with a large tattoo on his shoulder that matches his earlier images on social media.

  • Reuters