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As mobsters gravitate to Turkey, what is the appeal of the Turkish passport?

International criminals have increasingly moved toward Turkey, attracted by easy citizenship prospects and lax measures against money laundering.
A mobile phone showing Sedat Peker speaking on his YouTube channel about international drug smuggling, May 26, 2021 in Istanbul.
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Deadly violence between foreign criminal gangs along with the capture of major crime bosses on Turkish soil have reinforced concerns that the country has become a haven for international mobsters in recent years, with some even acquiring Turkish citizenship.

Cevdet Akay, a lawmaker for the main opposition Republican People’s Party, made headlines last week when he brandished in parliament a two-meter-long paper roll he said was a list of publicly known incidents in Turkey involving foreign criminal gangs since 2016. Authorities, he charged, have deliberately slackened efforts against illicit money so as to ease hard-currency flows to Turkey and finance the country’s current account deficit.

“As a result, drug barons and leaders of international gangs have swarmed to our country,” Akay said, recalling that the Financial Action Task Force, an international watchdog, downgraded Turkey to a "grey list" in 2021 for failing to tackle money laundering and terrorism financing. Foreign-currency inflows of unknown origin have reached $76.7 billion under the 21-year rule of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), compared to only $1.7 billion during the 1984-2001 period, he said.

Drawing on its majority in parliament, the AKP has voted down countless opposition proposals for parliamentary probes on issues related to illicit money, crime gangs, corruption and bribery.

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