The escape by the head of one of Britain’s most violent gangs from a Turkish jail has raised concerns about Britain’s policy of deporting dangerous convicts.
Izzet Eren, 39, walked out of an open prison in Istanbul in 2019 within weeks of arriving to serve out his 21-year sentence for plotting a gangland murder. He previously had attempted a jailbreak in north London.
Britain has no power to ensure appropriate security measures are taken after deportation.
After nearly three years on the run, Eren, head of the feared Tottenham Turks gang, was tracked to Moldova by a Scotland Yard unit and was arrested in May. His escape occurred four years after a failed attempt to break him out of a prison van at Wood Green crown court in 2015. His gang has been linked to more than a dozen murders in the past decade.
Eren disappeared within a month of arriving in Istanbul after he was granted three-day leave by local authorities, official documents obtained by The Times reveal.
The incident has threatened a diplomatic spat with Ankara, with a senior Conservative MP accusing Turkish authorities of showing little concern about the threat posed by Eren. Tim Loughton, a member of the Commons home affairs select committee, said: “This makes a mockery of arrangements with other jurisdictions when deporting serious criminals to their birth countries. This is a notoriously dangerous individual and placing him in an open prison in no way matches the severity of his crimes.
“He would be dealt with much more robustly in the UK justice system, yet Turkey has shown little concern about him being at liberty again to terrorise the population either there or, worse still, by returning to the UK again. We cannot deal with other jurisdictions on an equal basis when they clearly have a flimsy idea of justice and where keeping the public safe appears a low priority.”
Scotland Yard’s specialist manhunt unit traced Eren, who had been deported once before and returned to the UK, to Moldova, where he was arrested. He entered via the pro-Russian breakaway region of Transnistria via Ukraine, according to officials in Chisinau.
Eren, who was jailed for being armed with a sub-machinegun to murder a rival, is awaiting extradition back to Britain. He is understood to have been involved in the running of his organised crime group’s operations in Britain while on the run.
A Turkish official document obtained by The Times shows that Eren arrived in Istanbul on August 26, 2019. Instead of being locked up in conditions similar to those he had faced in Britain, he was sent to an open prison.
He had been there for barely four weeks when he was granted a three-day leave to travel to his home province of Kahramanmaras, nearly 500 miles to the southwest. When he did not return to prison, an arrest warrant was issued.
It is not known where Eren sought refuge in the period between his escape and his arrest in Moldova on May 26. What is clear is that he left Turkey illegally, either via a smuggling route or using a fake passport.
The border between Ukraine and Transnistria is not controlled by the European Union-aligned Moldovan government, but by Moscow-friendly factions that govern the territory.
Neither Transnistrian de facto authorities nor Ukrainian officials responded to requests for comment.
The Moldovan ministry of internal affairs said: “According to the information uncovered, Izzet Eren had no criminal ties in the territory of the Republic of Moldova.”