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26 May, 2024
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North probes illicit cash route to south after Ercan arrests

Turkish Cypriot authorities investigate illicit cash moving across the divide as war in Ukraine changes game rules


Recent arrests in the north in connection with cash couriers have prompted Turkish Cypriot authorities to investigate whether large sums of money were being transferred through an illicit route to the south.

According to Turkish Cypriot media, a man in police custody in the north was arrested last week after having flown from Istanbul to Ercan with €950,000 cash on his person.

Investigators said Turkish Cypriot law enforcement grew suspicious after the man entered and exited the north on different dates within a very short time.

But his lawyer reportedly maintained that his client had declared the money and had paperwork that legally justified why he was carrying close to one million euros in cash.

A judge presiding over the case ordered the suspect remanded in custody after prosecutors said a probe was underway, adding that evidence in the case included security camera footage.

Additional media reports said the woman was also being accused of allegedly taking illicit cash from Athens via Istanbul to Larnaca to the tune of €460,000

Additional “illicit courier” arrests were also being probed by authorities in the north with reports saying a woman was also arrested last month after landing at Ercan airport with €500,000 in cash.

The woman, described as a Ukrainian national, had flown from Istanbul, while police prosecutors told a Turkish Cypriot judge that she also appeared previously to have brought money in similar fashion, €150,000 on April 1 and €200,000 on April 23.

Media reports also said the woman was being accused of allegedly taking illicit cash to Larnaca to the tune of €460,000 from Athens via Istanbul on May 30.

She too came on police radar after entering the northern part of Cyprus, which is not recognized by any country except Turkey, and then very quickly crossing south before getting back to north Nicosia where she flew out of Ercan.

Last month 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.

"Drug traffickers have no interest to continue to use this route," EMCDDA director Alexis Goosdeel told an online news conference, adding there were already signs of increased trafficking on the borders Turkey-Bulgaria and Greece-Turkey borders.

Goosdeel said smugglers using the Black Sea were now opting for other routes, suggesting it was likely trafficking would increase through the Greek islands and the southern Mediterranean.

Greek Cypriot officials also expressed concerns that drug dealers may be using Turkey to transport illegal substances through the north, with anti-drug squad deputy commander Stelios Sergides saying at the time it was only an unproven theory proposed by experts.

But Sergides admitted that “because of the pandemic we now see a rise in production, trafficking, and availability of drugs in Europe also affecting Cyprus as well.”

Cyprus  |  Greece  |  Turkey  |  Athens  |  Nicosia  |  Istanbul  |  drug trade  |  illicit cash  |  courier  |  Turkish  |  Greek  |  Cypriot  |  police  |  Ukraine

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