A second round of investigations in the aftermath of the murder of Turkish Cypriot crime boss Halil Falyalı in North Cyprus last February has revealed the organised crime ring he led ran 15 betting websites based in Malta that illegally offered betting services to Turkish citizens.
Turkish authorities have also found that winnings were being laundered through a Malta-based cryptocurrency exchange.
The information was made public on Tuesday by Turkish Home Affairs Minister Süleyman Soylu, who said a financial axis between Cyprus and Malta had been identified.
Gambling in Turkey is highly regulated. Casinos have been banned since 1998, and online betting, with the exception of one state-owned service, has been banned since 2006.
Falyalı and his driver were assassinated in February in North Cyprus, which sparked the investigations.
An initial preliminary investigation into financial flows was conducted in October 2022, which found some $30 million in cryptocurrency in Malta that belonged to the murdered crime boss and which Turkish authorities say were seized as part of an investigation into the illegal gambling ring.
A second new investigation was launched this week and found the criminal organisation had 15 betting sites established in Malta, according to the Turkish home affairs minister.
Back in October, The Shift reported how Falyalı, a North Cypriot casino and hotel boss, had been laundering the proceeds of illegal gambling through a Malta cryptocurrency exchange.
The investigations into the gambling ring are being conducted by the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office.
Eleven companies were also found to have been involved in transferring the proceeds of illegal gambling, which were sent to cryptocurrency accounts in Malta owned by the criminal organisation.
The Turkish authorities said that some $30 million were seized from cryptocurrency accounts in Malta that belonged to Falyalı and his wife.
The accounts were being sent illicit gambling funds through the Papara free money transfer app, which were then converted into untraceable cryptocurrencies.
The gambling and money laundering ring had reportedly developed special software to avoid detection and was able to transfer funds from illegal betting to other accounts within 20 seconds.
The Turkish prosecutor’s office confiscated another $40 million of crypto assets in Turkey by court order.
Referring to those confiscations, Soylu said on Tuesday that a total of 101 arrests have been made so far and that a total of 136 people, including the relatives of the murdered crime boss, have been identified as the illegal betting ring’s organisers. Further action is to follow as investigations progress.