The 44-year-old was captured in Istanbul along with 36 others in a sting opertion against an ‘armed, organised crime ring’

Suspected Australian drug trafficker Hakan Ayik has been arrested in Turkey alongside 36 others involved in an “international armed organised crime” group, Turkish officials say.

The arrests, which allegedly happened in Istanbul, also included some individuals sought by authorities in the US and New Zealand.

Turkey’s interior minister, Ali Yerlikaya, took to X, formerly Twitter, to allege the “armed, organised crime ring” was involved in international drug trafficking and money laundering, based in Australia and led by Ayik.

The 44-year-old remains listed on the NSW police website as among its “most wanted persons” for supplying large commercial quantities of drugs. He has been referred to in the media as “the Facebook gangster”.

Yerlikaya wrote on X that Mick Hawki was the former alleged leader of the Comanchero bikie crime organisation, linked to Ayik, but was killed in 2018.

The Comanchero Motorcycle Club is an outlaw motorcycle gang based in Australia and south-east Asia.

“The criminal organisation continued its activities under the management of Mark Douglas Buddle,” Yerlikaya wrote on X in a post translated from Turkish. ‘The so-called leader of the organisation … was captured in 2022 and handed over to Australian authorities.”

He alleged Ayik subsequently took over management of the organisation and continued criminal activities.

“We will not forgive organised criminal organisations … we will dismantle organised criminal organisations of any size and bring them to justice,” he wrote on X.

A spokesperson for the Australian federal police (AFP) said it was “aware” of the reporting from Turkey and continued to work with international partners to combat transnational serious organised crime.

They said the AFP had supported the Turkish national police through Operation Gain and the AFP’s post in Ankara.

“The AFP acknowledges the Turkish national police for undertaking one of the most significant operations targeting alleged transnational serious organised criminals, some of whom are accused of illicit drug trafficking to Australia and around the world,” they said.

“Türkiye is a regional leader in the global fight against transnational serious organised crime.

“The AFP is posted in Türkiye and has witnessed the Turkish national police’s determination in disrupting, arresting and charging alleged organised crime figures.”

In 2021, Ayik was among 17 people across the world to be charged in an FBI indictment in the US with violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (Rico) Act.

The Turkish-Australian citizen was one of the three administrators of An0m encrypted devices, the FBI alleged.

The An0m devices were released in October 2018 by a convicted narcotics importer who was working as an informant for the FBI.

The FBI subsequently spent almost three years monitoring the content of messages sent using the platform with the assistance of the AFP, until it was shut down in June 2021 and the infiltration was revealed.

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