Relatives of murdered Turkish Cypriot businessman Halil Falyali have been organising illegal betting in northern Cyprus, Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said on Wednesday.

According to statements Soylu made to the Turkish news channel TRT, the area from the Balkans to Malta and the north is riddled with illegal online betting.

For the specific operation, which was run in October, Soylu said that they made 101 arrests in Turkey, while 808 million Turkish lira were seized.

He added that a new operation began on Monday.

In the October crackdown, Soylu said that another 136 individuals were identified as organising illegal betting, among them relatives of murdered Turkish Cypriot businessman Halil Falyali.

Soylu said: “The income from these crimes can be used very easily in other countries.”

Commenting on Falyali’s murder in February this year, Soylu said that as soon investigations began into the murder, which included six arrests in Turkey, authorities found activity around northern Cyprus and Malta.

“We conducted a preliminary operation in October 2022. Again, we started a new operation from this morning [Monday]. In this context, specifically the organisation in question, there are 15 betting sites, which are active in island countries with a favourable tax regime, originating in Malta,” Soylu said

Falyali was gunned down in February this year, while being driven home, and later succumbed to his injuries in hospital. His driver also died in the attack.

The well-known businessman’s funeral was held in the presence of hundreds of mourners. His gangland-style execution created a stir in the north and beyond, giving way to speculation about Falyali’s alleged links to the underworld.

Several reports in the media place Falyali at the head of a gambling empire in the north, through which he amassed powerful connections related to illegal gambling that may have led to his murder.

The businessman was namechecked by Turkish gang leader Sedat Peker the year before, in one of the videos he posted with revelations about many political figures in Turkey and their alleged shady activities.

Falyali denied all of Peker’s allegations, which said he was involved in drug trafficking and money laundering in the north through his businesses in cooperation with Erkan Yildirim, son of former Turkish prime minister between 2016 and 2018, Binali Yildirim.

Media in Turkey also focused on Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar’s alleged relationship with the businessman after photographs of the two dining together were uncovered.

In February, former Yeni Duzen editor in chief Cenk Mutluyakali published a telephone conversation between himself and Tatar, which came after he appeared on Turkish television to discuss the Turkish Cypriot leader’s relationship with Falyali.

Tatar reportedly denied any relationship with the businessman, saying he felt the journalist “humiliated” him, as he has “not received a single lira from Falyali.”

“He did not fund my election campaign,” he said, “There is no proof of anything like that”.