European police have confirmed that Turkey has denied extradition requests from Belgium for two Balkan men, Bosnian Sani al-Murdaa and Albanian Fljamur Sinanaj, both accused of smuggling several tons of cocaine between 2020-2022.
According to a report by Mitchell Prothero of Vice News, both men purchased Turkish citizenship for about $500,000 each earlier this year, having fled Sarajevo and Belgrade after Belgium issued Interpol red notices for their arrest.
The issue of using Turkish visas to evade arrest came to light last year when Dutch authorities complained about another accused cocaine trafficker, Jos Leijdekkers, operating his cartel from Turkey after obtaining Turkish citizenship. Turkish authorities have thus far refused to arrest Leijdekkers but did seize close to 1 billion Turkish lira (around $36 million) from businesses suspected of links to his operation.
Murdaa and Sinanaj were linked to at least 3.2 tons of cocaine intercepted in Antwerp’s port between 2020-2022, trafficked by the Serbo-Montenegrin Škaljari cartel. A Belgian federal police official, speaking on condition of anonymity, stated that Turkey’s golden visa policies makes it very easy for anyone with cash to become a citizen almost overnight. Turkey categorically refuses to extradite its citizens, even if they have no familial ties to the country.
A major figure in the Škaljari cartel, Jovan Vukotic, was assassinated in Istanbul on 8 September 2022. The Turkish police arrested several men accused of the murder on behalf of the rival Kavac cartel. Evidence uncovered during this investigation led to the arrest of Kavac boss Zeljko Bojanic on charges including torture and murder.