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Turkey makes biggest heroin bust ever

Saturday, 08-Nov-2003 8:01AM PST
Story from AFP
Copyright 2003 by Agence France-Presse (via ClariNet)

ISTANBUL, Nov 8 (AFP) - Turkish police have seized 507 kilos (1,115 pounds) of heroin in operations in Istanbul and in the northeast of the country, in what was the country's biggest heroin bust ever, a senior official said Saturday.

The operation on Wednesday followed months of trailing of a gang of smugglers which produced heroin in a makeshift laboratory in the northeastern province of Rize, Istanbul governor Muammer Guler said, cited by the Anatolia news agency.

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Upon a tip-off that the gang had moved large amounts of heroin to Istanbul to be shipped abroad, police stopped a truck it had been following in the Beykoz district, on the city's Asian side.

A search revealed 505 kilos of heroin stashed in the vehicle, Guler said.

In a subsequent operation on the laboratory in Rize and a nearby farm where the narcotics were packaged, police found another two kilos of heroin as well as 139 kilos of morphine and 165 kilos of opium, which are used to make heroin.

Anatolia quoted anonymous police officials as saying that 13 people were detained in the operation.

Among them was Urfi Cetinkaya, a well-known Turkish narcotics smuggler who was arrested in August 2000 in a heroin bust carried out jointly with Spain and who was released from a Turkish jail pending trial in August this year on health grounds.

Turkey is a major route of drug-trafficking and people-smuggling between Asia and Europe.