‘Facebook gangster’ arrested in organised crime operation

Turkish police have arrested Australian man Hakan Ayik in an international organised crime operation.

Turkish police have arrested Australian man Hakan Ayik in an international organised crime operation. Photo: AP

Australia’s most wanted man, drug smuggler Hakan Ayik, has been arrested in Turkey along with 36 others from a global organised crime ring that has also been pursued by US and New Zealand authorities.

Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya said the arrests in Istanbul targeted the Comanchero motorcycle gang, alleging it was involved in drug trafficking, manslaughter, looting and money laundering globally.

Ayik – dubbed the “Facebook gangster”– has been on the most wanted list in New South Wales for more than a decade for the “supply of large commercial quantities of drugs”.

The FBI said he unwittingly helped authorities monitor and arrest hundreds of suspected criminals in recent years using an FBI-run phone app.

Ayik, also known as Reis, and Duax Hohepa Ngakuru, have led the crime ring since at least last year, Yerlikaya said on the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter.

Ayik is wanted by US and Australian authorities while Ngakuru, who was also arrested, is wanted in New Zealand, Yerlikaya said.

Istanbul’s chief public prosecutor filed a lawsuit against the Comanchero bike gang alleging it laundered its assets in Turkey.

The drug trade spanned South America, Australia, the Netherlands, Hong Kong, South Korea and South Africa, Yerlikaya said.

Reuters was not immediately able to contact a spokesperson for Ayik at an Istanbul hotel where, in 2021, staff had confirmed he was the owner.

Turkey’s government published a video of the arrests showing armed special agents and narcotics officers banging on doors of apartments and houses, arresting various men and seizing hand guns and stacks of foreign bank notes.

The video includes an image of a man it says is Ayik, who is seen kneeling, handcuffed and shirtless with a large tattoo on his shoulder that matches his earlier images on social media.

In 2010, Australian police arrested Ayik’s associates in relation to a drug shipment. When Ayik did not return from a trip to Hong Kong, Interpol issued a warrant for his arrest.

A US Federal Bureau of Investigation indictment unsealed in 2021 says Ayik was one of three administrators and four influencers identified in establishing and popularising the An0m app among criminal networks.

Users thought the app was encrypted but it was actually controlled by the FBI who could monitor their conversations.

The Australian Federal Police acknowledged Turkey’s police for “undertaking one of the most significant operations targeting alleged transnational serious organised criminals, some of whom are accused of illicit drug trafficking to Australia and around the world”.

An AFP spokesperson added that Turkey was a regional leader in fighting such crime and that Australian police works with it.

Born to Turkish migrants, Ayik was raised in Sydney but it was not until about 2005 that he came onto the radar of Australian police, local media have reported.

His wealth and flashy lifestyle was flaunted on Facebook, bringing him to the attention of authorities and the public, and earning him his nickname.

In 2021, two staffers at the Kings Cross hotel in Istanbul’s upscale financial district of Levent said Ayik was the owner and appeared there often.

The 13-room hotel has a spa and Japanese restaurant and its business card included the slogan: “Sleep your way to the top”.

Ayik has been wanted by authorities since leaving Australia in 2010.

He was arrested in Cyprus in December 2010 but disappeared after being granted bail.


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