Europe’s most-wanted drug traffickers are increasingly evading capture by becoming Turkish citizens, VICE World News reported, citing European law enforcement officials, according to the Stockholm Center for Freedom.
European law enforcement officials, speaking to VICE, have grown concerned that criminals linked to large-scale drug trafficking are exploiting Turkey’s policy of issuing citizenship to investors while also taking advantage of the fact the country refuses to extradite its new citizens.
Accused drug traffickers are increasingly turning towards Turkey as well as the United Arab Emirates, which offers easy residency, but not citizenship, to people with large amounts of cash to invest, according to European officials.
In 2018 Turkey lowered the financial and investment criteria for foreigners to become Turkish citizens in a bid to boost investment in the economy. The new regulations stipulate that foreigners can become citizens if they own property worth $250,000 for three years, down from a previous value of $1 million.
Foreigners can qualify for Turkish citizenship if they meet any one of a series of criteria. The sharp reduction in the required foreign currency value applies to fixed capital investments and bank deposits as well as properties and bond holdings. According to the new regulations, foreigners can also become citizens if they have $500,000 deposited in a bank for three years, down from a previous $3 million. The amount of required fixed capital investment was reduced to $500,000 from $2 million.
Turkish criminal networks involved in the cocaine trade between the Middle East and Latin America have recently merged with fentanyl trafficking, according to a recent report by Homeland Security Today.
The report suggests that politicians, bureaucrats and criminal groups in Turkey are involved in the cocaine trade, which has flourished under the current government’s authoritarianism. The article notes that the purging of more than 95 percent of anti-drug trafficking teams after corruption scandals in 2013 and a coup attempt in 2016 has created a favorable environment for criminal markets in the country.
According to a recent report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Turkey’s role as a transit country for cocaine has been growing since the amount of the drug seized in the country has increased sevenfold since 2014.
The report said some of the cocaine reaching Turkey arrives after transiting through West Africa and some comes directly from Latin America, with the outbound cocaine flowing westwards from Turkey through the Black Sea and the Balkans, a route traditionally associated with the trafficking of opiates and the smuggling of cigarettes.