Turkish economy plagued by organised crime

The Turkish mafia has an increasingly vice-like grip on the country's economy and its tentacles are reaching out into ever increasing areas of activity, a report has revealed.

    Cem Uzan's powerful banking family is under investigation

    According to the document drawn up by Ankara's Chamber of Commerce, organised-crime activities currently generate more than $60 billion in the black economy in about 100

    different sectors each year, equivalent to a quarter of the entire national income.


    Between 1998 and 2002, in excess of 3000 crimes by organised gangs were recorded, the vast majority of them in Istanbul, the country's economic heartland and a favourite haunt for the underworld, the report said.


    Nearly 5000 people were arrested and a large number of weapons seized in police operations during this period.


    Apart from the mafia's traditional activities, such as the trafficking of women and children, people smuggling and drugs and arms dealing, the Turkish mafia has branched out into less orthodox areas including organ and baby trafficking and the fixing of football matches.


    Kidney trade


    An organ such as a kidney purchased from a poverty-stricken donor for a derisory sum can be sold on for between $61,500 and $123,000 in Turkey or abroad, the

    report said.


    Organs are often removed from individuals kidnapped specifically for that purpose, according to the report.


    Very young children from poor families purchased or abducted from their relatives are sold to rich couples or forced into a life of begging on the streets of Istanbul or Ankara.


    One of the most lucrative areas of activity for the gangs involves the purchase of plots of urban land - often in intimidating circumstances - on the cheap, which are then transformed into car parks, in short supply in the major cities.


    The report said television was to blame for painting a false picture of mafia members in popular programmes as Robin Hood characters who simply rob the rich to help the poor, thereby encouraging impressionable youngsters to follow in their footsteps.



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