Two Belgian drug lords have escaped justice by claiming Turkish passports. The two suspects recently obtained the documents in exchange for a sizable investment.
Belgian law enforcement had been actively seeking the two individuals, who are known for their involvement in one of the largest cocaine smuggling operations in Belgian history.
Bosnian-born Sani AM and his Albanian accomplice Flamur S are wanted by an investigating judge in Bruges for their involvement in the Kriva Rochem case, in which a shell company was used to smuggle at least 3.2 tonnes of cocaine into Belgium. The criminal enterprise was run by Flor Bressers (Finger Cutter), who has been in jail since last year.
Bressers’ accomplices are now living beyond the reach of the law in Turkey. There is no extradition arrangement between Belgium and Turkey and Turkish authorities have refused to extradite the suspects, who they say have since obtained Turkish citizenship.
This is not the first time that Belgian criminals have used Turkey as a means of escaping justice. Turkey’s policy of granting passports in exchange for investment offers an attractive means for criminals to launder their money and receive protection from the law. As of 6 January, foreigners can invest as little as $500,000 or buy property in the country to receive citizenship.
Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne says that he is aware of the problem. “We are counting on the new Turkish government to ensure that Turkey does not become a free port for major criminals on the run,” he said.
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Many major suspects involved in the cocaine trade also seek shelter in the United Arab Emirates. Dubai Uncovered, a massive investigation conducted by the OCCRP, reveals that many Belgian criminals live in Dubai, laundering their money in real estate and benefiting from the lack of an official extradition treaty with Belgium.
One Belgian couple linked to the cocaine trade has 30 properties in the city, including eight villas and 22 flats, worth a total of $18.7 million. Other individuals living in Dubai are linked to the wave of explosions and gang violence in Antwerp.