Turkish authorities have been sheltering a Swedish gangster wanted on drug trafficking and attempted murder charges, granting him citizenship and providing him with confidential Swedish intelligence, the Swedish press has revealed. The ongoing scandal has led to accusations of rank hypocrisy, since Turkey is simultaneously demanding that Sweden extradite Kurdish political exiles and other members of its own Kurdish diaspora on the basis of their alleged support for Turkey’s Kurdish movement.
As it happens, the man at the centre of the controversy is himself a Kurd – Rawa Majid, reportedly known as the ‘Kurdish fox’. Majid was born to Iraqi Kurdish parents in Iran, but raised in Sweden from when he was just a month old. Majid has no ties to Turkey, but while out on probation in Sweden following a lengthy jail sentence, he was able to travel to Turkey and ultimately purchase citizenship there.
Majid was detained in Turkey in 2022, and Sweden requested his extradition to face trial on the drug and attempted murder charges, but Turkey instead released him a few weeks later. It was then revealed that Majid had secured Turkish citizenship, via a controversial ‘golden passport’ or ‘citizenship by investment scheme’, which enables foreigners to purchase Turkish citizenship for a $400,000 investment.
Turkey was recently found to have the very worst rates of organised crime of any European country, and the 14th-worst in the world. And as VICE News have reported, the ‘golden passport’ scheme is enabling many of Europe’s most sought-after criminals to shelter in the country.
In the latest revelation, Swedish officials disclosed that when they detained a member of Majid’s organisation still in Sweden, he was found in possession of confidential documents provided by the Swedish authorities to their Turkish counterparts in the course of pursuing Majid’s extradition. Officials described this leak of high-level intelligence to the very criminal organisation it covered as a ‘scandal’, demonstrating the lengths to which Turkish authorities are seemingly willing to go to protect this wanted criminal.
The ‘scandal’ adds fuel to the fire between Sweden and Turkey, since Turkey has spent the last 18 months refusing to approve Sweden’s application to join the NATO security alliance, a process where Ankara wields a veto. Ankara has been issuing all sorts of demands, including access to fighter jet programmes, concessions over EU access and visa-free travel, and the persecution and harassment of Sweden’s Kurdish diaspora as a quid-pro-quo for dropping its veto, provoking public anger in Sweden.
Principle among Turkey’s demands is the extradition of a list of members of the Kurdish community, which had previously found a safe haven in Sweden, to face trial in Turkey.
In a telling parallel, Turkey initially suggested that a then-member of Sweden’s Parliament, Iranian-born Kurd Amineh Kakabaveh, should be deported to Turkey despite having no legal ties to the country.
Turkey feels able to demand the extradition of one Iranian-born Kurd from Sweden to face trial in its courts, while offering shelter to another Iranian-born Kurd, even in the face of Swedish demands for their extradition. The ‘Kurdish fox’ scandal shows once again that endlessly appeasing Erdoğan is no way to ensure Europe’s security, whether in the face of Putin’s aggression, organised crime, or other threats. But unsurprisingly, Sweden and NATO leaders seem set to continue on the same course, allowing Erdoğan to influence and dictate European policy, even where this harms both the Kurds and his nominal allies.
Matt Broomfield is a freelance journalist, poet and activist. He writes for VICE, Medya News, the New Statesman and the New Arab; his prose has been published by The Mays, Anti-Heroin Chic and Plenitude; and his poetry by the National Poetry Society, the Independent, and Bare Fiction. His work was displayed across London by Poetry on the Underground, and he is a Foyle Young Poet of the Year.