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Suspect sought over Turkish Cypriot casino boss’s murder arrested in Netherlands

Dutch police have arrested a suspect in the Netherlands in connection with last year’s murder of Turkish Cypriot casino boss Halil Falyalı and his driver, BBC’s Turkish edition (BBC Türkçe) reported on Thursday.

Falyalı, who owned several casinos and hotels in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (KKTC), a self-proclaimed state on the predominantly Turkish side of Cyprus, died in an attack that took place in front of his house in Kyrenia.

The arrest followed a police operation near Zoetermeer, a town close to The Hague, earlier this week, BBC Türkçe said.

The suspect, believed to have carried out the attack on Falyalı and his driver on February 8, 2022, was under surveillance by Dutch police after a tipoff from Turkish law enforcement.

The suspect was presented to an examining magistrate in The Hague on Wednesday afternoon and has been detained, with extradition to Turkey expected. The attack involved a shower of gunfire on Falyalı’s vehicle. Falyalı sustained critical injuries from 16 bullets and later died in a hospital, while his driver, Murat Demirtaş, died at the scene.

Following the incident, six individuals, including brothers Mehmet Faysal Söylemez and Mustafa Söylemez, were detained in connection with the murder. At a hearing on October 12 at the İstanbul 36th High Criminal Court, the prosecution demanded two aggravated life sentences for each of the Söylemez brothers for “premeditated murder” and “forming and leading a criminal organization.” Additional suspects Ender Yıldız, Abdurrahim Çelik, Cengiz Şener and Metin Süs face 33 to 46 years in prison for “abetting a murder” and “membership in a criminal organization.”

Falyalı had been released from prison approximately a month before his murder. He had been sought for allegedly assaulting an employee at his casino and was detained on October 14, 2021, along with three other suspects. Falyalı, hospitalized for heart problems during his detention, was implicated in a scandal involving sexually explicit material of certain Cypriot politicians and businessmen.

Falyalı came to public attention in Turkey in May 2021, when notorious Turkish mob boss Sedat Peker had alleged while exposing the Turkish government’s involvement in international cocaine trafficking that the drug was being shipped to Turkey from Venezuela and then to the Middle East on luxury yachts, while the profits were laundered in the KKTC by Falyalı.

According to Peker, Erkam Yıldırım, the son of ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) politician Binali Yıldırım, former minister Mehmet Ağar and Falyalı were running the cocaine operation, while then-interior minister Süleyman Soylu afforded them immunity. The revenue was laundered through Falyalı’s casinos in the KKTC and on online betting sites before being injected into Turkey’s economy.

Peker had also said Falyalı was influential in the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and that he possessed sex tapes of a number of politicians and bureaucrats whom he hosted at his luxury hotels in Cyprus.

Journalist Erk Acarer reported that Falyalı was accused of using these materials to negotiate his release from prison. In December 2021 Falyalı and the three other suspects were released following the withdrawal of charges against them. The attack on Falyalı occurred on February 8, 2022.

In November 2022 the state-run Anadolu news agency reported that some $30 million in cryptocurrency on the Malta cryptocurrency exchange that belonged to Falyalı had been seized upon a demand from the Turkish authorities as part of an investigation into an illegal gambling ring.

In December 2022 Anadolu again reported that Turkish prosecutors had issued detention warrants for 163 people with links to the deceased Falyalı for allegedly engaging in illegal gambling.

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