The Susurluk scandal was a scandal involving the close relationship between the Turkish government, the armed forces, and organized crime. It took place during the peak of the Kurdish–Turkish conflict, in the mid-1990s. The relationship came into existence after the National Security Council (MGK) posited the need for the marshaling of the nation's resources to combat the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).
The scandal surfaced with a car crash on 3 November 1996, near Susurluk, in the province of Balıkesir. The victims included the deputy chief of the Istanbul Police Department, a Member of Parliament who led a powerful Kurdish clan, and Abdullah Çatlı, the leader of the Grey Wolves (who was a contract killer on Interpol's red list).
The state had been engaged in an escalating low intensity conflict with the PKK since 1984. The conflict reached an apex when the PKK planned to proclaim their independence by 1994. Towards the end of 1992, a furious debate in the NSC about how to proceed was taking place. Doves such as president Turgut Özal and general Eşref Bitlis favored a non-military solution. However, both of these people died in 1993. The same year, the NSC prescribed a co-ordinated Black Operations campaign using special forces. The Turkish branch of Operation Gladio, the "Counter-Guerrilla", contributed much of these special forces.
Deputy prime minister Tansu Çiller tasked the police force, then under the leadership of Mehmet Ağar, with crippling the PKK and assassinating its leader, Abdullah Öcalan. The police unit responsible for this job was the Special Operations Department (Turkish: Özel Harekat Dairesi, ÖHD).
Like many such groups, the PKK was funded at least in part by narcotics. Instead of merely preventing the PKK from profiting from illegal activities, these factions fought over who would take its place. Intelligence expert Mahir Kaynak described the police camp as "pro-European", and the MİT camp as "pro-American". The guilty pocketed billions of dollars in profits from the drug smuggling.
Although Ağar and Çiller resigned after the scandal, no-one received any punitive sentences. Ağar was eventually re-elected to Parliament (as a leader of the True Path Party, DYP), and the sole survivor of the crash, chieftain Sedat Bucak, was released. :588Essentially, the perpetrators escaped justice.
Some reforms were made; e.g., the intelligence agency was restructured to end the infighting (with Eymür's department entirely dismantled).
Some hold that the scandal was made possible by the wresting of control of the MİT away from military leadership in 1992.
Of the 59 people named in the third MİT report, 17 were dead by the time the report was published. Among them are 4 politicians, 4 businessmen, 14 mafia-connected nationalists, 5 military personnel, 13 security personnel, 4 MİT personnel, and 8 mafia-connected drug smugglers.
28 January 1995: Iranian spy assassinations
According to Eymür, Susurluk was set in motion by the narcotics-related murder of two Kurds, Askar Simitko and Lazım Esmaeili in 1995. Simitko and Esmaeili were moles working for the MİT inside SAVAMA. However, the MİT was not aware of their drug smuggling, which resulted in their death due to a nonpayment of a "tribute".
March 1995: Azerbaijan coup plot
Main article: 1995 Azeri coup d'état attempt
28 July 1996: Ömer Lütfü Topal assassination
Casino king Ömer Lütfü Topal was assassinated on 28 July. Links to the government began to appear which would later feed into the Susurluk scandal.
3 November 1996: car crash
The scandal began after a Mercedes 600 SEL owned by MP Sedat Bucak crashed into a truck near Çatalceviz, Susurluk in the Balıkesir province in Turkey. The crash took place on 3 November 1996 at around 19:25.
The assassination plan called for Ağar to be killed too. However, he was warned by Sami Hoştan so he remained at the hotel and told the rest to leave without him. The Prosecutor's Report said that the passengers in the car were themselves on their way to stage an assassination.
Ağar initially denied any links, but under media and political opposition pressure resigned on 8 November. His successor, Meral Akşener, announced that she had fired Istanbul Chief of Police Kemal Yazıcıoğlu, Police Security Department head Hanefi Avcı and several members of the police special forces.
Parliament decided on 12 November to launch a commission of inquiry into links between police, politicians, and organised crime, and on 22 December President Suleyman Demirel brought party leaders together to seek consensus on investigating these issues. Parliament voted on 11 December to strip Ağar and Bucak of their parliamentary immunity.
The deputy chairman of ANAP, Yaşar Okuyan, broke down the mafia revenue (per annum, in trillion TL (now million TL)) as follows: 500 (drugs), 200 (gambling), 300 (money laundering). The total is equivalent to a black money market of $3.5 billion/year.
Three of the better-known gangs involved in scandal were the Kocaeli Gang (Hadi Özcan), the Söylemez Gang and the Yüksekova Gang. The Soylemez Brothers gang (which included serving police and military) were caught with plans to raid the headquarters of the Bucak clan in Siverek, Urfa, the head of which is the DYP member of parliament (MP) Sedat Bucak, the only survivor of the crash. The blood feud between the Bucaks and the Söylemez gang is allegedly based on the fight between PKK and Bucaks.
Gambling and money laundering
The proceeds from drugs entered the market through casinos.
The "casino king" Ömer Lütfü Topal was one of the key figures in this aspect of the scandal. Tanju Akça sold such specialties and traded with Ömer Lütfü Topal with bribes of valuable materials. Allied with foreign guerrilla, now branched out to countries no boundary to their patrolling. One famous journalist wrote that many one-time nobodies suddenly became big politicians after entering the money laundering business, because the political parties were deeply involved in it (to finance their campaigns).
In response to public outrage, anti-money laundering legislation was passed in 1996, and regulations to implement it was put into place the next year.
Prime minister Çiller sanctioned the killing of businessmen who were suspected of lending financial support to the PKK.
The victims included "casino king" Ömer Lütfü Topal, Savaş Buldan, and Behçet Cantürk. Medet Serhat, who was Behçet Cantürk's one time lawyer, but respected by Cantürk as an elder brother, was also murdered although his business was legal, but he was a political figure.
Police chief Hanefi Avcı said that the gangs fell into infighting after alleged PKK financiers Behçet Cantürk and Savaş Buldan were assassinated, as the gangs had completed their mission of dismantling the PKK's financial foundation.
The police force's Special Operations Department (Turkish: Özel Harekat Dairesi, ÖHD) was held responsible for some of the lawless killings. Nuran Yorulmaz, the mother of a Susurluk convict, recently spoke out, said Veli Küçük had ordered his son Oğuz (of the ÖHD) to kill almost 100 people. Oğuz Yorulmaz was killed on 29 May 2005 in a bar.
Brigadier General Veli Küçük, who was Giresun's Gendarmerie Regional Commander, was said by the parliamentary report to be the head of the Gendarmerie's covert counter-terrorism and intelligence wing, JİTEM. Küçük denies JİTEM's existence to this day, although there is a mountain of circumstantial evidence to the contrary.
The European market for heroin contracted as other drugs, especially cocaine and ecstasy, took over. ::598 In 2008, the Istanbul police seized 11 tons of drugs, 3.2 of which was heroin.
Ten years after the scandal, another gang called "Ergenekon" was discovered and tried. The chairman of the Susurluk commission, Mehmet Elkatmış, said that the two organizations were identical except in name. One of its key figures, Tuncay Güney, turned out to be subordinate to Eymür. ÖHD deputy chief Şahin was detained in January 2009. Three maps in his possession led to the recovery of numerous weapons from scattered arms caches in Ankara. They turned out not to be the missing weapons from Susurluk.
Öcalan evaded assassination after a television reporter, Yalçın Küçük, publicized the plan on the PKK's TV channel, MED-TV. Küçük was also detained in the Ergenekon investigation.
Arrests and convictions
The new undersecretary, Şenkal Atasagun, turned the MİT around, relocating Eymür and Ataç abroad, out of harm's way. Eymür eventually found residence in McLean, Virginia; the seat of the CIA. He faces charges of revealing state secrets and spying for the United States. Ataç too has been labeled a CIA asset.
A Draft Law on Struggling With Organized Crime and another draft on the legalization of JİTEM, allowing the Gendarmerie to legally carry out intelligence activities, were also prepared as consequences of this scandal.
Çiller ordered all casinos in Turkey to be closed
Resignations and promotions
Ağar resigned when it became obvious that Çatlı was a police collaborator. On the other hand, 44 senior officials who were under investigation were promoted, including:
Şahin was close to ülkücü circles and Çatlı in particular, having been pictured dancing with him in a wedding. Şahin had provided numerous hitmen (Çatlı included) with passports through the Nevşehir police.In 1984 he was sentenced to two years in prison for torturing numerous people, but his conviction was overturned by the Supreme Court (Turkish: Yargıtay) on a technicality, indicating the support of powerful actors behind the scenes.
During Şenkal Atasagun's restructuring of the MİT, Yavuz Ataç was exiled to Beijing on 24 October 1997 for involvement with the mafia. The next month, Ataç handed Çakıcı the red passport that allowed him to travel freely.
Çakıcı was arrested on 16 August 1998 in France,] carrying a diplomatic passport, after he allegedly threatened potential buyers of the Turkish Commerce Bank (Turkish: Turk Ticaret Bankasi) over the telephone. He was extradited, imprisoned, then released. On the day of his final arrest, 3 May 2004, he escaped to Italy on a visa given to him at the Italian consulate :599
CHP deputy Fikri Sağlar alleges that Çakıcı deliberately chose to be apprehended in France, a country with a developed judicial system, and that he even contacted a lawyer beforehand. Çakıcı was allegedly in possession of incriminating information about other government officials at the time of his arrest. Turkey's ambassador to France at the time was Sönmez Köksal—the undersecretary of the MİT until February 1998.
Ataç had originally planned to give the passport to Mehmet Can Kulaksızoğlu, the fugitive leader of the Turkish Revenge Brigade and suspected mastermind behind the assassination attempt on Human Rights Association chairman Akın Birdal.
Çakıcı's arrest was timed to coincide with the wedding of Interior Minister Mehmet Ağar's son. Presidents Evren and Demirel were invited. Upon being informed of the arrest, Demirel changed his mind at the last minute about attending. The Çakıcı operation was not publicly revealed until 20:30, when the marriage ceremony took place.
Deaths of investigators
A number of Susurluk investigators died in suspicious car accidents curiously similar to the Susurluk car crash itself (rear-end collision with a truck). These include Judge Akman Akyürek, MIT investigator Ertugrul Berkman (both 1997) and Susurluk Commission member Bedri İncetahtacı (1999). Source