Turkish Authorities Seized $40m Worth of Crypto in Illegal Gambling Ring Takedown

  • Police detained 46 people following raids across eight Turkish provinces
  • The slain Halil Falyali is believed to have been the head of the illegal betting operation
  • About $95m worth of cryptocurrency from the illegal operation may still be outstanding
  • Both retail and online gambling are very tightly regulated in Turkey
coins with cryptocurrency symbols
Turkish authorities have seized $40m worth of cryptocurrency after taking down a major illegal gambling operation. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

A widespread operation

The authorities in Turkey have dismantled an illegal gambling ring, seizing $40m in cryptocurrency in the process. The Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office detained 46 suspects on Wednesday following raids across eight provinces. An extensive investigation led to the operations in Yozgat, Van, Muş, Kırıkkale, Kayseri, Bingöl, Batman, and Ankara.

According to the press statement, the Smuggling and Organized Crime Investigation Bureau identified an Ankara-based criminal group as being behind the illegal gambling operation.

prohibit any form of online gambling businesses outside of the sole state-owned operation

One of the prime suspects in the illegal gambling operation was Halil Falyali, who allegedly headed up the ring before he was shot dead near his residence in February. The illegal enterprise was in violation of the country’s laws which prohibit any form of online gambling businesses outside of the sole state-owned operation.

Big money

Those involved in the gambling ring allegedly transferred funds they got from facilitating illegal sports betting into cryptocurrency assets that were then distributed to members of the organization and their family members.

TL2.5bn ($135m) in cryptocurrency was sent to the accounts of 11 individuals, including Falyali and his spouse. There were 148 transactions in total; no details were made public as to what specific cryptocurrencies were seized.

another $95m or so could still be out there

Minister of Interior Süleyman Soylu explained that the investigation was linked to Falyali’s murder and he believes that there is more action to come, saying that “this is just the beginning.” There have been reports that another $95m or so could still be out there. It appears that the $40m worth of crypto that has already been seized was on multiple exchanges.

A tightly regulated environment

Halil Falyali was a Turkish Cypriot businessman who had previously been the focus of money laundering investigations. He owned the Les Ambassadeurs Hotel & Casino in Northern Cyprus, but also allegedly had links to organized crime. The base of the illegal betting ring was traced back to Cyprus.

There are very tight gambling regulations in Turkey. Casinos have been illegal since 1998, while online gambling, outside of the state-owned service, has been illegal since 2006. The Turkish authorities are committed to cracking down on illegal gambling, believing that many of the issues are coming out of Europe.