There was a moment a decade ago when it appeared that the mafia’s influence over Turkish politics had ended. Since the 1970s, individuals from Turkey’s underworld had been the focus of a series of scandals that rocked the country’s political establishment. But by 2009 a number of renowned godfathers were either on trial or already serving long prison terms. Then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan declared that his government’s “clean hands” policies would pull the country out of the dark pits of corruption in which it had been mired. Amid this optimism, some remained cautious. “These [criminal] structures are currently asleep,” one retired police official declared in 2011. “However, they can become active again if they find a suitable political environment.”

An absurd series of events over the last three weeks makes this warning appear prophetic. A notorious crime boss named Sedat Peker has released a series of YouTube videos from Dubai levying lurid and detailed accusations against the Turkish government. He’s accused one member of parliament, the son of a notorious interior minister, of rape and murder. He’s accused the son of Erdoğan’s former prime minister of attempting to smuggle five tons of cocaine into Turkey. And, to explain why these men have never been charged, he has accused Erdoğan’s powerful interior minister, Süleyman Soylu, of protecting them. Though Peker offers no proof for these claims, Soylu and others mentioned in his broadcasts have scrambled to respond. Erdoğan has continued to back his interior minister but has refused to address Peker’s specific charges.

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