Europe’s most-wanted fugitives are increasingly becoming Turkish citizens to evade capture and prosecution, Vice News reported on Monday, citing European officials expressing their concerns.
According to European law-enforcement officials, high-profile drug traffickers exploit Turkey’s policy of granting citizenship to investors and take advantage of the fact that the country also refuses to extradite its newly naturalised citizens.
Iraqi-Kurdish drug trafficker Rawa Majid, also known as the “Kurdish Fox,” purchased Turkish citizenship by using a Turkish passport programme which offers citizenship in exchange for $400,000 in investment.
Turkey has refused to extradite Majid, despite arrest warrants from Interpol and Sweden, where he is one of the country’s most-wanted criminals.
Turkey justifies its rejection to extradite the drug trafficker on the grounds that Sweden refuses Ankara’s requests for extraditing several people branded as terrorists by the Turkish government.
Jos Leijdekkers, an accused Dutch cocaine smuggler and one of Europe’s top fugitives, is also believed to have purchased Turkish citizenship and is thus protected under the Turkish laws.
The problem with the Turkish citizenship program goes beyond these two individuals, according to European law enforcement officials.
“The United Arab Emirates, particularly Dubai, has been a well known problem in terms of allowing known cartel figures residency, with a very unresponsive extradition process that leaves multiple accused traffickers living openly,” a Belgian official told Vice.
“But Turkey, by granting actual citizenship to anyone with about half a million dollars, is another matter completely,” the official said.
“Between Netherlands and Belgium alone there could be a dozen fugitives using Turkish passports,” the official added.