Ayhan Bora Kaplan, the leader of a criminal organization who was detained at the Ankara airport while attempting to flee to Germany last week, has been revealed to have collaborated with police officers from the Ankara Police Department. Kaplan has been accused of raiding the homes of people affiliated with the government-critical Gülen movement who were forced to leave the country after being wrongfully detained following a controversial coup attempt in 2016. During these break-ins, valuables and cash were reportedly stolen.
According to a statement made by Kaplan during police questioning, they looted the homes of critics of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, exceeding $100 million in value. According to reports in the Turkish media, the police allegedly provided Kaplan with the addresses of individuals who had fled abroad, facilitating the burglaries of these homes. It has also been noted that among the looted properties was an apartment located in the West Gate complex in Ankara, in which the biggest robbery was carried out.
In his statement Kaplan also provided the names of law enforcement officers and members of the judiciary to whom he allegedly gave bribes. Among them is Yüksel Kocaman, a member of the Supreme Court of Appeals (Yargıtay), known for his close ties to President Erdogan. Kocaman had a reputation for delivering verdicts against opposition figures in critical cases. He garnered attention on his wedding day in 2020 when he and his wife visited Erdogan immediately after the ceremony. The bride’s decision to wear a more conservative wedding dress during the visit, different from the one she wore during the wedding itself, also made headlines. He was appointed to the Supreme Court of Appeals shortly after the wedding.
Kaplan became the leader of one of Turkey’s biggest crime organizations by getting other rival mafia groups out of the way thanks to former interior minister Süleyman Soylu.
The first incident that brought Kaplan to public attention was when he arrived at the studios of state television station TRT with heavy weapons to resist the coup plotters during the abortive putsch in 2016. It was later revealed that the person who instructed Kaplan to go to the TRT building was indeed Soylu. According to Turkish law, civilians are prohibited from possessing such weapons; however, the source of the weapons was not investigated by the police.
Since Soylu’s removal from the cabinet after the May elections, there has been speculation among critics that President Erdogan aims to discredit Soylu, whose potential to become president after him has been rumored in political circles. It is no a secret that Erdogan is preparing for a family member to succeed him after his term in office ends. Erdogan is planning for one of his sons, Bilal Erdogan, or his son-in-law, Selçuk Bayraktar, a drone manufacturer, to take his place as head of state. Bayraktar recently told journalists that if he needs to enter politics, he wouldn’t hesitate.
A briefing note prepared by the Turkish police regarding the Kaplan operation states that “in light of the changing circumstances within both the judiciary and the police, the suspect known as Bora Kaplan believed that his connections within these institutions had eroded, resulting in a decrease in his effectiveness. Therefore, it is assessed that he believed that the criminal activities of the organization he established in the past would come to light.”
Meanwhile, in another development that occurred on September 6, prosecutor Okan Bato, who allegedly provided the names of businesspeople affiliated with the Gülen movement to mafia leader Serkan Kurtuluş, leading to their abduction, torture and extortion, was expected to be dismissed from his position by the Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSK). However, he has merely been transferred from Izmir to Antalya.
Kurtuluş, who is currently in prison in Argentina, spoke to multiple media outlets including US Fox News revealing the details of how the group seized the assets of government critics from the Gülen movement in 2020. He also exposed a plot to kill American pastor Andrew Brunson, who was wrongfully jailed in Turkey before former US president Donald Trump intervened in securing his release and return to the US. The Erdogan government had planned to pin the assassination on the Gülen group if Kurtuluş had gone through with the murder.
Kurtuluş’s revelations provided clues as to who in the Turkish government was involved in schemes to blackmail businesspeople caught up in malicious prosecutions. Gürbüz Yüksel, the then-regional head of the National Intelligence Organization in Izmir; Kudret Dikmen, head of the intelligence department of the Izmir police; and prosecutors Bato and Karakaya were ringleaders running the scheme.