The Susurluk Legacy
By Adrian Gatton
Ten years ago, a horrific car accident grimly illuminated how Turkish state officials colluded with drug barons to traffic drugs into Europe and Britain. Adrian Gatton investigates how corruption has smoothed the path of heroin from Afghanistan into the UK.
ONE fateful evening, on November 3, 1996, a black Mercedes 600 pulled away from a plush Izmir hotel, and travelled towards Istanbul. Turkey’s roads are notoriously dangerous, and on the dark highway, near the town of Susurluk, the Mercedes smashed into an oncoming truck. Three of its four passengers died in the pile-up.
Photographs show blood-stained seats in a mangled wreck, the bonnet wrinkled-up and scorched by fire. Medics pulled out the bodies of an MP, a police chief, a beauty queen and her lover, a top Turkish gangster and hitman called Abdullah Catli. In the boot they found an assassin’s tools: pistols with silencers and machine guns, plus false diplomatic passports.
When the accident hit the papers, it emerged that Catli, a heroin trafficker on Interpol’s wanted list, was carrying a diplomatic passport signed by none other than the Turkish Interior Minister himself …