Turkish Cypriot authorities have their hands full as they investigate large sums of money being laundered in Cyprus, with cases ranging from probing courier operations south of the divided island’s UN buffer zone to media speculating on the scope of rampant tax evasion in the north.
Last week Turkish Cypriot police arrested a 28-year-old man on suspicion of money laundering after he flew to Ercan airport in north Nicosia and failed to declare he was carrying €800,000.
Like father like son
But the suspect, whose 60-year-old father remains in police custody on similar charges, told a local judge he brought the cash for “investment purposes” while in the past he had told police he was buying real estate.
The father-son duo, both of whom share the same name, reportedly flew to Ercan several times after declaring to authorities in Turkey a total of €12,000 each time before flying to the northern part of Cyprus.
But prosecutors accuse the son of failing to declare a total of €1.5 million on separate trips to Ercan between January 9 and July 14.
His father was arrested over a month ago after having flown from Istanbul to Ercan with €950,000 cash on his person. Turkish Cypriot authorities had grown suspicious over his entering and exiting the north on different dates within a very short time.
Link between north and south
Prosecutors have also told a north Nicosia judge they were looking into cases of “courier operations” where large sums of money were believed to have been laundered through the southern part of Cyprus.
Back in June a woman was detained after landing at Ercan airport with €500,000 in cash. The suspect, described as a Ukrainian national, had flown from Istanbul, with police prosecutors alleging she also appeared previously to have brought money in similar fashion, €150,000 on April 1 and €200,000 on April 23.
Media reports at the time said she was also being accused of allegedly taking illicit cash to Larnaca to the tune of €460,000 from Athens via Istanbul on May 30.
New drug routes due to Ukraine war
Earlier this summer the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction said the war in Ukraine had a "direct impact" on one of the heroin trafficking routes out of Afghanistan that used to pass through Ukraine and other neighboring nations.
EMCDDA pointed to signs of increased trafficking on the Turkey-Bulgaria and Greece-Turkey borders, along with information that smugglers were opting for other routes and this could cause drug trafficking to increase through the Greek islands and the southern Mediterranean.
Tax evasion and online activity
Turkish Cypriot media have been tracking down cases of people arrested in the north for bringing large amounts of money, with a local newspaper also digging into the complexity of investigations.
According to YeniDuzen, chief prosecution official Fadil Aksun said there was plenty of blame to go around, pointing to the north’s responsibility to evolve with the times as electronic crime was on the rise involving illegal gambling online.
"Although the volume of money earned from these activities is quite high, we would like to state that we are aware of the fact that many people use their bank accounts for laundering this money and this is a crime,” Aksun said.
Turkish Cypriot police say money seized in tax evasion cases is either confiscated or returned.
The father-son duo insists the money was to be used for investment such as buying residential property.