By Esra Aygin
A spate of underworld-style crimes in recent weeks has sparked off questions over police inaction and reignited the public debate on the casino-nightclub-mafia triangle in the northern part of Cyprus.
The Turkish Cypriot community was shaken by a slew of almost simultaneous arsons on the same night earlier this week on two auto showrooms and the headquarters of a company in what seemed to be a racketeering tactic. Two other vehicles were set on fire in the past week, while a man was caught on security cameras leaving a decapitated dog at the door of a local newspaper. Lastly, the suspect in a mafia showdown trial thundered at the deputy police superintendent during the court hearing, saying: “I feel sorry for you. You will beg me.”
“The order of the streets has replaced the order of law in this country,” wrote Huseyin Ekmekci, the chief editor of Havadis newspaper in his column. “Unfortunately, the police is not taking effective action. Some things are being tolerated. Some things are being covered up. Those who are in charge of ensuring justice are becoming a part of injustice.”
A peculiar statement by the police disclosing that it is receiving threats “from some individuals involved in organised crime” only added insult to injury.
“Lately, some individuals are trying to intimidate or terrorise members of the police,” read a statement from the police headquarters.
We will continue our operations against these crime groups fearlessly with determination and vigour. We will fulfil our duties without shying away or making exceptions.”
The statement, however, was short of convincing.
“The duty of the police is not to swagger. The duty of the police is to take action,” wrote Ekmekci.
“The police is failing to take action against criminal activities, as well as certain of its members who are entangled in suspicious relations.”
The fact that the north is outside the scope of international law makes it a convenient place for illegal activities, according to Ekmekci. And the large casino and nightclub sector further feeds into this climate.
There are some 30 casinos and over 40 nightclubs – which effectively function as brothels – in the north.
The tax payments by these casinos and nightclubs constitute almost 40% of the local budget of the north, which may explain why officials often turn a blind eye to most of the shady incidents and relations in and around these sectors.
Numerous reports by international institutions as well as the US State Department indicate that the casinos and nightclubs in the northern part of Cyprus remain essentially unregulated, and draw attention to the fact that the place is vulnerable to money-laundering and human-trafficking abuses.
Fear over ‘Mafia rule’ in north
By Esra Aygin