Turkish Gangster Detained in Northern Cyprus Casino Owner Murder

Posted on: February 11, 2022, 09:11h. 

Last updated on: February 11, 2022, 01:26h.

Turkish police have arrested a notorious gangster in relation to the Feb. 8 assassination of a Turkish Cypriot casino owner who himself had links to organized crime.

Halil Falyalı,
Casino owner and underworld figure Halil Falyalı, above, was gunned down in his car on Feb. 8. (Image: Hurriyet Daily News)

Halil Falyalı was killed in a drive-by shooting when the motorcade he was traveling in was sprayed with bullets by unknown gunmen. This was as it entered the village of Çatalköy in the de facto state of Northern Cyprus. Falyalı’s driver, Murat Demirtaş, was also killed in the attack.

According to the Demirören News Agency (DHA), police on the Turkish mainland have arrested five people in connection with the crime. Among them is Mustafa Söylemez, leader of an infamous criminal organization known as the Söylemez Brothers.

Reign of Terror

The gang achieved notoriety in the 1990s when it fought rival organizations for control of arms and drug trafficking in Turkey via a campaign of kidnap and murder. Many of its members, including Mustafa Söylemez and his brother, Faysal, were arrested and imprisoned in 1996. Prosecutors said at the time that the gang was planning to attack a rival gang from a helicopter using flamethrowers.

But the members were released in 2002 as part of a widespread amnesty designed to ease a prison overpopulation crisis that had sparked protests and hunger strikes among inmates.

A warrant was issued for their rearrest in 2004, and the brothers fled to northern Iraq, and later Azerbaijan. Turkish media has expressed surprise at Mustafa Söylemez’s reappearance in Turkey.

He was detained in Istanbul on Feb. 9.

Who Was Halil Falyalı?

Falyalı owned the five-star Les Ambassadeurs Hotel & Casino in Cyprus, as well as a slew of illegal online betting sites, according to Istanbul-based newspaper BirGun.

When Turkey criminalized online gambling, Northern Cyprus became a base for gaming sites illegally targeting the mainland, and Falyalı cashed in, BirGun explained.

In 2015, Falyalı was accused by the US government of being part of a heroin trafficking operation that was bringing drugs into the UK. A year later, he was charged with money laundering after washing the proceeds of drug sales in the US.

However, he couldn’t be extradited because the US does not recognize Northern Cyprus as an independent state.

Meanwhile, investigators are examining whether his death could be linked to the Jan. 28 killing of Safak Mahmutyazicioglu. The lawyer and former director of Turkish soccer giant Besiktas was gunned down in a seafood restaurant he owned in the Yeşilköy district of Istanbul.

According to several reports in the Turkish media, Mahmutyazicioglu and Falyalı were partners in an online betting company.

Mahmutyazicioglu was married to Ece Erken, a famous Turkish TV actress and presenter.