“Australia’s ‘Facebook Gangster’ Captured in Turkey

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ISTANBUL, Nov 4: On November 2, Turkey announced the capture of Hakan Ayik, a high-priority fugitive wanted in Australia for drug smuggling, along with 36 other individuals connected to an international organized crime network that has been the subject of pursuit by U.S. and New Zealand authorities.

Turkey’s Interior Minister, Ali Yerlikaya, disclosed that the apprehensions took place in Istanbul and were aimed at the Comanchero armed motorcycle gang. The gang is alleged to have engaged in drug trafficking, manslaughter, looting, and money laundering on a global scale.

Hakan Ayik, known as the “Facebook gangster” in Australia, has been on the most wanted list in New South Wales for over a decade due to his involvement in the “supply of large commercial quantities of drugs.” The FBI also revealed that Ayik, under the alias Reis, inadvertently aided authorities in monitoring and apprehending numerous suspected criminals in recent years through an FBI-operated phone app.

Ayik and Duax Hohepa Ngakuru have been leading the criminal organization at least since last year, according to Yerlikaya. Ayik is sought after by both U.S. and Australian authorities, while Ngakuru, who was also arrested, is wanted in New Zealand.

Istanbul’s chief public prosecutor filed a lawsuit against the Comanchero motorcycle gang, accusing them of money laundering in Turkey. The drug trade associated with this criminal network spanned South America, Australia, the Netherlands, Hong Kong, South Korea, and South Africa.

Turkey’s government released a video of the arrests, featuring armed special agents and narcotics officers apprehending various individuals, and seizing handguns, and stacks of foreign banknotes. The video includes an image of a man identified as Ayik, who is shown kneeling, handcuffed, and shirtless, displaying a large tattoo on his shoulder consistent with his earlier social media images.

In 2010, Australian police arrested Ayik’s associates in connection to a drug shipment. When Ayik failed to return from a trip to Hong Kong, Interpol issued a warrant for his arrest.

In 2021, a U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation indictment revealed that Ayik was one of the key figures in establishing and promoting the An0m app within criminal networks. Users believed the app was encrypted, but it was, in fact, controlled by the FBI, allowing them to monitor conversations.

The Australian Federal Police commended Turkey’s police for undertaking a significant operation targeting alleged transnational organized criminals, some of whom are accused of illicit drug trafficking to Australia and other parts of the world.

Hakan Ayik, born to Turkish migrants, grew up in Sydney. His extravagant lifestyle and conspicuous displays of wealth on Facebook brought him to the attention of authorities and the public, earning him the moniker of the “Facebook gangster.” In 2021, staff at a hotel in Istanbul’s upscale financial district confirmed that Ayik was the owner, where he was a frequent presence. The hotel, located in Levent, features a spa and Japanese restaurant and is known for its business card slogan: “Sleep your way to the top.”

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