The appointment of a neo-nationalist figure as the ambassador of Turkey to the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (KKTC) is the latest in a series of events that indicate President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is bent on turning the breakaway region on the Mediterranean island into a “sin-city,” where organized crime, drug trafficking, money laundering, gambling and sex trafficking networks can operate with impunity and no crackdown on their activities.
It is certainly not a random choice by Erdoğan, who selected Metin Feyzioğlu, an anti-West, neo-nationalist lawyer who has no experience in diplomacy, as the new envoy to the Turkish-controlled north of the divided island. There is a well-thought-out, sinister plot behind this considering Feyzioğlu has long been associated with the dark forces of the neo-nationalist (Ulusalcı) networks that like to operate beyond the realm of the law and were in the past incriminated in murders, plots and schemes that at times targeted non-Muslims in Turkey.
Feyzioğlu has a long track record with neo-nationalists, helped Erdoğan turn the judiciary into a political tool in 2014 and successfully campaigned for the release of notorious figures who plotted against the West and NATO interests in Turkey. He was one of the key people who empowered Erdoğan in his quest to consolidate control over all levers of the Turkish state. As a reward for his service, he was appointed Turkish ambassador to the KKTC on October 31, 2022, effectively making him a “governor” who will rule the KKTC, a self-declared state that is recognized only by Turkey.
Northern Cyprus, where Turkey maintains tens of thousands of troops, is already a lawless country for organized crime syndicates and mafia groups that were protected by their masters in Ankara. Such criminal enterprises have long operated there with impunity and at times do the bidding of Turkish intelligence agency MIT for various clandestine operations beyond Turkish borders.
Part of an indictment that reveals details of a secret plot in the north of Cyprus, which is under the control of the Turkish government:Cyprus_plot_gang_neo_nationalist
The hotels, universities and casinos with their gambling, drug and sex businesses were designed to lure Turks as well as foreigners in entrapment schemes that would promote the secret agenda of those who wield power and influence behind the scenes in the Turkish capital of Ankara.
Erdoğan struck a bargain with these nefarious groups that were also nested within Turkish government institutions and purged veteran police chiefs and prosecutors who cracked down on them. Today, most neo-nationalists within these groups have been enlisted as willing partners who help Erdoğan govern Turkey as well as the breakaway KKTC.
The secret playbook on how the neo-nationalists use the KKTC for their goals was revealed in a court case back in 2011, when police in the western province of Izmir started investigating a complaint about a prostitution ring, only to find a sophisticated network of espionage, blackmail and extortion in honey trap schemes where sex with escort women was used to lure targets, develop assets and extract critical information.
As the investigation deepened, not only dozens of military officers but also intel agents, police, diplomats and other government officials were incriminated. The network also targeted officers from NATO member states including Americans who were posted at the NATO facility in Izmir.
One of the key documents seized from the suspects featured a detailed clandestine operation in the KKTC that provides a blueprint for how President Erdoğan and his nationalist/neo-nationalist associates have used the breakaway territory and continue to exploit the island to further their political goals.
It is worth remembering that many of those suspects in the 2011 case who were involved in running illegal KKTC operations were later rewarded by the Erdoğan government. The appointment of Feyzioğlu was simply the latest part of the puzzle that clarifies the picture for observers of Turkish politics. At the same time, it is also worrisome for those who have been watching the neo-nationalist and far-right nationalist groups and studying their game plans.
Therefore, it would not be wrong to predict that the KKTC will be used as a springboard to shore up support for the Erdoğan regime and his /nationalist neo-nationalist associates, break the resistance within the Turkish bureaucracy and opposition bloc and shape public opinion to obtain the desired outcome.
The seized plan for Cyprus gives a clear picture of what to expect. The plan was among a cache of documents discovered in an encrypted file named Pandora on a hard drive that was seized during the execution of a search and seizure warrant in the summer home of the main suspect, organized crime boss Bilgin Özkaynak, on May 9, 2012. The encryption was cracked by IT specialists who were authorized by the court, and the content of the file revealed the names of assets, operatives, marks and a huge archive of secret military and government documents obtained through honey-trap and other schemes.
The powerpoint file, named KKTC Yapı.pptx, was prepared by Eray Ercan, then a lieutenant and now a colonel in the military. “Cyprus is a very important place for us. We can easily do everything we want here without being hindered by the police or the judiciary,” the document concluded under a chapter titled “Cyprus Opportunities.”
The document was submitted for review to former Col. Coşkun Başbuğ, code-named Coco, who was in military intelligence and started working as a deputy to Özkaynak after retirement. Ercan lay out the current operations in Cyprus, revealing the identities of their assets and making recommendations on how they can boost their capabilities.
Stating that drugs, illicit sex and alcohol were widespread in Cyprus, Ercan said the environment was ripe for operations that target prominent figures, bureaucrats, academics and rich people. He said nightclubs such as Playboy, Sexylady, Lipstick, Crazy & Kings, Yakamoz, and Mexico, where women trafficked from foreign countries work, were the most important venues for illicit sex. Drugs were also available at nightclubs and bars.
A VIP sex service was provided in hotels, with the document naming such places as Merit, Cratos, Jasmine Court and GoldenTulip as hotels where the neo-nationalist group had its own escort team that worked on targets. Gambling is also another draw in hotels, and nearly all officers in the Turkish military garrison on the island gamble even though military regulations prohibit such activity.
According to the document, a similar sex ring also existed in universities, especially Girne American University and Near East University.
The entire operation on the island was run by Col. Fikret Haluk Vergül, who oversaw teams that worked at nightclubs, hotels and universities. Under him, a special VIP escort team was managed by Col. Birol Kahraman. Vergül was forced to retire from the military in 2014 and subsequently starting working in the private sector. Escort teams at universities were managed by Col. Reşat Timuçin Özkan, who provided special services for clients who wanted to have sex with underage girls. Escort teams at nightclubs were run by Col. Kahraman.
Still shots from a search conducted by the police of the home of Col. Haluk Fikret Vergül, who was alleged to be running point in Cyprus on behalf of the gang.Search_seizure_photos_Haluk_Fikret_Vergul
Capt. Ümit Topaloğlu ran a team called “special” that was composed of four women operatives who worked for the Turkish military in Cyprus. The most valuable information was obtained from this team because of their easy access to military installations and personnel, according to a note in the document.
The gang also drew up plans to host and organize academic conferences in Cyprus hotels and to invite members of the judiciary and academics whom they planned to blackmail and turn into assets by sending prostitutes to their hotel rooms. “There was no one who could say ‘no’ to the women we sent late at night,” the document said, suggesting that the plan had already been tested and produced remarkable results for the gang.
Under the chapter titled “Needs and Proposals” it was suggested opening up a brand new VIP nightclub and outfitting it with hidden cameras to record clients and hiring all types of escort women who would roam the facility naked. It is also interesting that the document referred to an outfit in Berlin and recommended similar features for the one to be established in Cyprus. That means the group already had a similar operation in Germany.
Another proposal was to infiltrate security personnel as well as IT teams at other nightclubs and plant operatives who would work for the gang and transfer CCTV camera footage to blackmail victims. The hotel reservation lists were also targeted so that the gang would know who would be coming to stay hotels in advance and prepare their schemes to entrap them.
The gang planned to add special gay and male escort teams to address different requests according to the preferences of the people targeted.
The document warned that the gang needed to plant their people to work within the ranks of the Central Command (Merkez Komutanlıkları) so that they would know about raids and inspections the military police (Merkez Komutanlığı Askeri İnzibat Taburu) conduct before they take place.
Among the thousands of pages of secret documents the gang managed to acquire were classified NATO and FBI documents that were shared with the Turkish government, a member of the Alliance.
All the people named in the seized document were indicted by the public prosecutor in Izmir in 2011, arrested and tried in a court of law. However, the case was thwarted when the Erdoğan government intervened in 2014, helping the suspects escape punishment. The government replaced both the investigating and trial prosecutors as well as judges who were hearing the case. The newly appointed staff dropped the case in February 2016.
Many officers who were named in the indictment as suspects returned to their duties in the Turkish military, moving up the ranks despite their controversial records. As if hushing up the investigation were not enough, the Erdoğan government also punished the prosecutors and police chiefs who exposed the gang and investigated their activities. Most of the investigators who were involved in unmasking the gang were either purged or jailed by the government.
Başbuğ, who was the number two man in the group and directed operations in Cyprus, is now a regular commentator on the A-Haber news network, which is owned by the president’s family. He spews anti-West ideas, blaming the US for everything that goes wrong in Turkey and even claiming that Jews were behind the coronavirus pandemic.
Feyzioğlu, who played a pivotal role in rescuing the shadowy figures who plotted sinister schemes in Cyprus, is now the Turkish ambassador to the KKTC. That is certainly bad news for law and order on the divided island, which will likely see provocative events designed to empower nationalists, neo-nationalists and their political master, President Erdoğan.