Turkish police investigating the murder of Northern Cypriot casino owner and crime boss Halil Falyalı have uncovered 15 Malta-based betting sites linked to the deceased’s criminal network.
Cypriot crime lord Halil Falyalı, above, was assassinated by gangsters the Söylemez Brothers in February 2022 for reasons unknown. (Image: Bianet)
The websites illegally offered betting to Turkish citizens and laundered money through a Malta-based crypto exchange authorities said. Eleven companies were involved in transferring the proceeds of the gambling sites to numerous cryptocurrency sites controlled by Falyalı’s organization.
The Turkish prosecutor’s office seized some US$30 million from crypto accounts in Malta that directly belonged to Falyalı and his wife, and confiscated an additional $40 million of crypto assets by court order.
Hail of Bullets
Malta is Europe’s primary online gambling hub, but the jurisdiction has been embarrassed by the repeated exposure of some of its licensees’ murky links to organized crime.
Turkish authorities said last week 101 individuals had been detained for their links to Falyalı’s money laundering ring, including members of his family.
Falyalı owned the five-star Les Ambassadeurs Hotel & Casino in Northern Cyprus. He died in a hail of bullets in February 2020 after his motorcade was ambushed by men wielding Kalashnikovs as it entered the village of Çatalköy.
The killing was witnessed by Falyalı’s wife and children, who were traveling in a different vehicle and were unhurt. His driver, Murat Demirtaş, was also killed in the attack.
Six individuals have since been indicted for the killing, including brothers Faysal and Mustafa Söylemez, two notorious Turkish gang bosses. They are currently on trial and face life sentences for planning and organizing the assassination.
Helicopters and Flamethrowers
Thirty years ago, the Söylemez Brothers fought a brutal war for the control of arms and drug trafficking in eastern Turkey via a campaign of kidnap and murder.
One on occasion, authorities disrupted a plot that involved the gang attacking a rival politician from a helicopter using flamethrowers, according to court documents.
The motive for Falyalı’s murder remains unclear.
In 2015, the US government accused the casino owner of operating in a narcotic trafficking operation that flooded the UK with heroin. A year later, the DOJ charged him with laundering the proceeds of drug sales on American soil.
Falyalı never faced justice because the US and the UK don’t have extradition treaties with Northern Cyprus, which they don’t recognize as an independent state.
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