North Cyprus Turning Into Little Sicily

Monday, 21 February, 2022.

North Cyprus News - Casino - Poker TableGambling, mafia, drugs, money laundering and trafficking. The first words that come to mind when North Cyprus is mentioned, Yasin Arslan, editor of online publication Onedio, asks how the TRNC became the backyard for Turkish money laundering?

Money laundering began when offshore banks were opened in the TRNC when foreign exchange offices, tourism and real estate investments were needed for money laundering and when casinos that were closed in Turkey in 1997 were transferred to North Cyprus, he writes. These activities inevitably became the focus of  mafia organisations, he says. 

Relationships between mafia organisations on both sides of Cyprus are pretty cordial, unlike their administrations. Enough to support and cooperate with each other when trouble looms, the author writes

He goes on to point out that opening a bank in Cyprus is quite easy. Those who can establish good relations with the government and make a capital commitment of 50 billion liras can easily establish a bank.  

From the 1990s, with the transfer of casinos and offshore banks, North Cyprus became the epicentre of money laundering. A similar situation exists in South Cyprus, Arslan says.

In addition to the laundering of illegally earned money in offshore banks in Cyprus, bribe money belonging to a number of politicians and bureaucrats in Turkey is transferred to offshore banks. It is known that a mayor owned a hotel with a casino in Cyprus and had this hotel taken over by frontmen.

Monetary Crisis in Turkey

Arslan adds that nearly all banks seized during the monetary crisis in Turkey in 2001, transferred their high interest deposits offshore to Cyprus.

They transferred most of the deposits that Cem Uzan collected for İmar Bankası and Murat Demirel’s Ege Bank to Cyprus. 

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