Hakan Ayik and others arrested in joint Turkish drug sting believed they were ‘untouchable’, AFP says

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A top fugitive wanted in Australia for drug smuggling and 36 others have been arrested in Istanbul in a joint operation between the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and Turkish police.

Hakan Ayik has been on New South Wales’ most wanted list for more than a decade for allegedly “supplying large commercial quantities of drugs”.

He was associated with the Comancheros motorcycle gang and lived in Türkiye and ran a hotel in Istanbul before his dramatic arrest.

Police said he was captured after undercover officers gave him a phone with an app he believed was encrypted.

By sharing that app, he unwittingly helped the AFP take down more than 220 suspected criminals during a three-year operation in 18 countries.

Hakan Ayik, a fugitive wanted in Australia for drug smuggling, is being held by Turkish police. (Supplied: Turkish Ministry of Interior)

The Turkish government published a video of the arrests, showing armed special agents and narcotics officers banging on the doors of apartments and houses, arresting several men and seizing handguns and stacks of foreign banknotes.

“Maybe they believed they were untouchable,” said Grant Edwards, AFP’s acting deputy crime commissioner.

“Maybe they believed they could avoid justice

“This is one of the biggest mistakes organized crime can make.”

The video includes an image of a man seen kneeling, handcuffed and shirtless with a large tattoo on his shoulder, which matches previous images of Ayik on social media.

Turkish officials say Ayik was allegedly involved in international drug trafficking and money laundering.

Operation Cage

The AFP said the 37 people detained under Operation Cage will disrupt the global illicit drug trade.

“Some of them were known and wanted not only by the AFP, but by other law enforcement agencies around the world,” said Acting Deputy Commissioner Edwards.

The AFP claimed that in addition to Ayik, the other men arrested had extensive links to the Comancheros and organized crime in Australia.

“We claim that they have an extensive network of criminals or criminals from different countries around the world,” he said.

Those countries included the Netherlands, Spain, South Africa, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Korea, New Zealand and Lebanon

“We allege that two of these men have operated or moved illegal drug shipments to virtually anywhere in the world.

“A conservative estimate would be that between 10 and 15 tonnes of border-controlled drugs destined for Australia could be attributed to some of these men.”

Acting Assistant Commissioner Edwards said not all of those captured had links to Australia.

“What we do know is that some of these people are having a significant impact on the Australian population and we were very pleased to see that the Turkish National Police did such a good job in arresting those people.”

The trial is expected to take place within a few days.

“The judicial process is a matter for the Turkish authorities so I cannot comment on it, but these are very serious criminals we are dealing with,” said Acting Deputy Commissioner Edwards.

Ayik is currently in custody and it is not yet known whether he will be extradited to Australia.

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