Two high-ranking advisors to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan lost their jobs a few days ago. Their names came up in connection with a bribery scandal. Serkan Taranoğlu was sacked by Erdoğan and Korkmaz Karaca resigned – he justified his decision with health problems.
These developments are thanks to the ultra-nationalist mafia godfather Sedat Peker. The former leader of a criminal organization had close ties to President Erdoğan for years, but has now become one of his harshest critics.
His recent revelations about the entanglement of politics with organized crime show that corruption has spread to the presidency: he has published private WhatsApp conversations and photos of some texts on Twitter, which are supposed to prove that several people in Erdoğan’s inner circle are in involved in a bribery affair.
Peker also accused an AKP MP, Zehra Taşkesenlioğlu and her brother, and the former head of the Capital Markets Supervisory Authority (SPK), Ali Fuat Taşkesenlioğlu, of corruption. They are said to have demanded 12 million Turkish lira (about 660 thousand euros) from the company Marka Investment Holding. After the head of Marka, Mine Tozlu Sineren, confirmed these allegations on Turkish television, the SPK filed a complaint. Prosecutors have now opened an investigation for the first time since Peker’s revelations began.
The opposition also recently filed charges against members of the government based on Peker’s statements, but could not find any investigators who want to investigate the government. There is also no great hope that the investigations will be carried out independently.
With his revelations over the past year, Peker has become one of the main actors in Turkish politics. His behind-the-scenes insights have weighed on the government for some time.
He initially published videos on his YouTube channel in which he made serious allegations against politicians from the ruling AKP party: They were involved in murder, drug smuggling, abuse of power, rape and many other illegal activities. He specifically targeted the Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu.
In order to avoid an arrest warrant, Peker had to leave Turkey and is currently in the United Arab Emirates after several stations. He tweets under the pseudonym “Deli Çavuş”, which translates as “The Crazy Sergeant”. Abu Dhabi has so far ignored Ankara’s extradition request.
On June 18 of next year, the Turks will go to the ballot box. The Turks could opt for a different government and theoretically send Erdoğan into retirement. So far, Peker has never attacked Erdoğan directly. However, his close confidante Emre Olur has announced that Peker will reveal important information two months before the elections. But how much range will Peker have with it?
The American professor Ryan Gingeras researches the relationship between the state and criminal organizations and has been observing organized crime in Turkey in particular for a long time. The latest revelations and the subsequent personnel ramifications indicated that Peker’s claims on social media appear to be having an impact, Gingeras explains. “But it’s not clear what effect Peker’s allegations are having on the loose and fervent supporters of the government. If Peker’s previous allegations haven’t already changed voters’ minds, why should these new revelations convince them to change their minds?” Gingeras said.
Gingeras emphasizes that he has already done all the damage that Peker can ever cause: A groundbreaking revelation that can significantly influence public opinion in Turkey is not to be expected. “Probably the voters who believe in Peker and find his allegations relevant have already decided not to vote for Erdoğan next year.” He is also not sure whether Erdoğan’s government has developed a unified strategy or perspective on Peker and his allegations .
Peker’s latest claims have sparked renewed public debate about criminal structures in Turkey. However, illegal business is not a new phenomenon for Turkey. Corruption in Turkey did not just come with the AKP government, but is historically deeply rooted:
“Turkey’s economic policy has left a lot of room for illegal machinations for a hundred years. The ruptures, contradictions and tensions in politics have prepared the breeding ground for an extremely lucrative informal economy,” says Turkey expert Gingeras.
Sedat Peker is not the only one who has targeted corruption in Turkey. Last year, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) placed Turkey on the so-called “grey list” because of insufficient measures to combat money laundering and the financing of terrorism.
In the “Global Organized Crime Index” of the “Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime” Turkey is also made serious allegations. It says: “Turkey has become known as a mafia state and the evidence confirms that this is the case – now more than ever.” According to Gingeras, Turkey has now become “a center of organized crime” – and Erdoğan’s party AKP have no problem with that.
The question of whether Peker’s revelations could lead to the end of the current government is difficult to predict. But it remains undisputed that a right-wing extremist mafia boss has become one of Erdogan’s harshest critics. He remains an important player who continues to shape Turkish society: “Above all, people want their suspicions to be confirmed. Peker gives people what they want,” says Gingeras.
Autor: Burak Unveren
Die US-Bank JPMorgan Chase
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The original of this post “How much political influence does mafia boss Sedat Peker have?” comes from Deutsche Welle.