From alleged drug trafficking and the cover-up of a murder to the transfer of weapons to Islamic militants. All this and more has come out of the mouth of a Turkish crime boss, Sedat Peker, who every week pours out accusations against members of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling party through a series of videos that have captivated the nation and made him an unexpected phenomenon on social media.
Sedat Peker, a 49-year-old fugitive crime boss who once supported Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party, has been posting nearly 90-minute-long videos from his base based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, dripping about as-yet-unproven scandals in an attempt to settle scores with political figures.
The weekly YouTube videos have been viewed more than 75 million times, causing an uproar, increasing unease about Turkish state corruption and putting the rulers on the defensive. They have also exposed alleged divisions between rival factions within the ruling party and added to Erdogan’s woes as he battles an economic recession and coronavirus pandemic.
His videos were aimed at former Interior Minister Mehmet Agar and his son, Tolga, a ruling party lawmaker, whom he accused of raping a young Kazakh journalism student and then covering up her murder as a suicide. Mehmet Agar, Peker suggested, misappropriated a luxury marina that may have been used in drug trafficking operations. Agar was subsequently forced to resign from the marina’s board of directors.
Subsequent videos launched accusations against businessmen and media figures close to the government, as well as former Prime Minister Binali Yildirim’s son, alleging he was involved in drug smuggling from Venezuela. But the target of Peker’s most scathing and derisive attacks is Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu, whom he accuses of abuse of power and corruption while aspiring to become Turkey’s president.
In an explosive claim with international dimensions, the mob boss said a former security adviser to Erdogan, accused of leading a paramilitary force, had sent weapons to Al-Qaida-linked militants in Syria. Erdogan has yet to address those claims, although the government has in the past denied allegations that it had armed jihadists.
Erdogan ignored Peker’s videos for weeks, but broke his silence on May 26, when he dismissed the mob leader’s earlier accusations as a conspiracy against Turkey. Peker responded to the Turkish president that week and suggested that Erdogan himself could be the focus of future videos. He later announced that he would speak about Erdogan after his meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden on June 14 so as not to “weaken his position.”