Passports and protection: the Macedonian connection of a Turkish crime boss.

In May 2021, fugitive gang boss Sedat Peker made headlines with a series of allegations against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Peker is now reportedly in Dubai, from where he has been releasing much-watched videos accusing people close to Erdogan of crimes and corruption.1 Not long ago, Peker was sitting in a prison cell in Skopje. What is the Macedonian connection to this high-profile case?

Even before his public accusations against the Turkish president, Peker was a well-known criminal in Europe. Born in Turkey, he spent much of his youth in Germany and made a name for himself in the underworld. He was even linked to the murder of a notorious drug smuggler in the 1990s. He then fled to Romania, where he was reportedly involved in extortion and racketeering.2

Although he often had run-ins with the law in different countries, Peker allegedly enjoyed a degree of political protection in Turkey, which enabled him to serve reduced sentences when convicted. By his own admission, he had knowledge of a milieu where criminals were paid by members of the security services to carry out hits against political opponents.3 Such relationships can work in both directions: often criminals can be used by the secret services to be part of their networks, but after a while, the relationship ends and so does their protection.

This seems to have happened to Peker, because he was arrested during Operation Butterfly in 2005.4 In 2007, he was found guilty of building and leading a criminal organization, as well as robbery, forgery and two counts of false imprisonment; he was sentenced to 14 years and five months in prison. In August 2013, as part of the Ergenekon trials in Turkey (which accused a network of high-level officials of being involved in clandestine activities), Peker – an outspoken nationalist – was sentenced to 10 years in prison. However, he was released a few months later.5

Sedat Peker seen in Skopje.

Sedat Peker seen in Skopje.

Photo: Social media

Peker seems to have not only good connections in the underworld, but also with some politicians and businessmen, as well as prominent people in North Macedonia. Indeed, his background makes his current allegations all the more interesting. As a Turkish journalist put it, his monologues feel like ‘live reporting from inside the gang’.6 But at some point, Peker made enemies of other big players in the Turkish underworld and people with high-level political connections.7

To facilitate his movement, Peker acquired a North Macedonian passport using the stolen identity card of someone named Xhadin Ademovski (who apparently lives abroad).8 Peker also spent some time in North Macedonia. Videos have emerged of him driving with a police escort as well as being protected by an off-duty policeman when walking through Skopje.9 In one of his videos, he even claims that he met with ‘the leader of that country, in his home’ – apparently meaning North Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev.10 In Skopje, Peker was sometimes accompanied by Enes Ibrahim, a representative from the Turkish Movement political party, a partner in Zaev’s governing coalition. Ibrahim told the media that Peker was an ‘old friend’. It is no secret that while Peker was staying in North Macedonia, he had meetings with businessmen, investors, artists and politicians. He also had meetings with Albanian political parties and VMRO-DPMNE (the biggest opposition party), as well as with various mayors.11

While this may seem strange, the fact that Peker was able to receive a North Macedonian passport was not unique. A scandal recently revealed that it was relatively easy for foreign nationals, including notorious criminals, to obtain North Macedonian passports from corrupt officials in the interior ministry.12 Indeed, it has been revealed that at least 215 passports with fake identities were sold for €20 000 each to foreign criminals and high-risk individuals by ministry officials. Thus far, at least 10 police officers responsible for issuing passports and identity documents have been arrested as part of Operation Double, carried out in coordination with INTERPOL and the Office for Investigation of the US embassy in Skopje.13 In June 2021, seven of them pleaded guilty, settled in court and were convicted. The maximum sentence was three years. The question remains whether these officials were acting alone or if there were others higher up the chain of command who knew more.

Regardless, there seems to have been a limit to the extent of Peker’s protection. On 20 January 2021, Peker was arrested in Skopje.14 Regional media speculated that Peker’s arrest was linked to his involvement in drug trafficking.15 But what happened to his alleged connections and his protection? One theory is that something went wrong for him in Turkey (perhaps when the interior ministry opened a new investigation into his networks)16 prompting him to travel to North Macedonia, but officials there were pressured by Ankara to bring him to justice. However, North Macedonian officials sent him instead to Kosovo, where it is thought he also had citizenship or at least a permit to stay in the country until 29 December 2021. From Kosovo, he was supposed to be extradited to Turkey. But the next time he appeared in public was in his damning videos allegedly filmed in Dubai – so he seems to have had powerful friends in Kosovo. Conveniently, the United Arab Emirates do not have an extradition agreement with Turkey.

Suspicions about Peker’s involvement in drug trafficking deepened when his alleged associate, Boban Tomovski, a Macedonian citizen said to be involved in criminal activity in Germany, among other places,17 was arrested in June 2021 at Sabiha Gökçen airport in Istanbul while trying to board a plane to Egypt.18 He currently faces extradition to North Macedonia. For his part, Peker has built a captive audience waiting for further revelations about organized crime and corruption in Turkey.

Besides the impact of Peker’s claims on the political situation in Turkey, this case highlights the dangers of corruption as an enabler of organized crime, including in an Interior Ministry; the widespread use of identity theft by criminal groups; the threat posed by the infiltration of the Turkish mafia in the Western Balkans; and the impact of the provision and removal of political protection – both for the protectors and those they protect.


  1. Turkey blocks exiled mafia leader’s social media posts, Ahval News, 25 June 2021,

  2. Cevheri Güven, Turkish mob boss detained, deported from North Macedonia,, 19 January 2021,

  3. Can Dundar, Opinion: A Turkish gang leader’s revelations are shocking Turkey. I reported the truth six years ago, The Washington Post, 14 June 2021,; Patrick Keddie and Umut Uras, Sedat Peker’s case: Videos grip Turkey, rattle government, Aljazeera, 31 May 2021,

  4. Turkey turns into a mafia playground – again, DuvaR English, 16 May 2021,

  5. Turkish ultranationalist mafia leader ‘using fake Macedonian ID’, DuvaR English, 7 April 2021,

  6. Ali Kucukgocmen, Turkish mobster’s videos targeting top politicians draw millions of views, Reuters, 27 May 2021,

  7. Sedat Peker, Turkish mobster who operated under protection of the Zaev regime, reportedly detained in Dubai, Republika English, 14 June 2021,

  8. Venco D, Turkish criminal wanted by the police also met with mayors from the government in Macedonia, Net Press, 6 April 2021,

  9. ‘Mafia’ affair rocks Macedonian Interior Ministry, endangers international standing, Macedonian Times, 9 April 2021,

  10. Sedat Peker reveals that he was a guest at Zaev’s home: I know the Macedonian leader, I was at the Prime Minister’s house, Republika English, 10 May 2021,

  11. Седат Пекер во Македонија се сретнувал со политичари, бизнисмени и дипломати,, 8 April 2021,

  12. Turkish ultranationalist mafia leader ‘using fake Macedonian ID’, DuvaR English, 7 April 2021,

  13. Sinisa Jakov Marusic, North Macedonia Arrests Police in Crackdown on Passport-Forgers, BalkanInsight, 6 April 2021,

  14. Криминалец од Турција уапсен и протеран од земјава, претходно се среќавал со бизнисмени и политичари, Telma, 19 January 2021,криминалец-од-турција-уапсен-и-протер/ 

  15. Peker videos: Gang leader’s claims rattle Turkish government, BBC, 25 May 2021,

  16. Beth McKernan, Mafia boss’s YouTube claims rattle Turkish government, The Guardian, 25 May 2021,

  17. Бобан Томовски уапсен во Турција, бил десна рака на Седат Пекер за шверцот на дрога во Македонија, Republika, 2 June 2021, and Boban Tomovski was a close associate of the mobster Sedat Packer, Sloboden Pecat, June 2021,

  18. Serjoza N, Macedonian citizen who worked closely with mobster Sedat Peker arrested in Turkey, Net Press, 2 June 2021,