DUBAI, March 9 (Reuters) – Turkey has handed over to Iran a popular Iranian social media figure, Milad Hatami, accused by Tehran of money-laundering and fraud in connection with online gambling, a senior Iranian police official said on Tuesday.
“He has been extradited …and faces charges linked to cybercrime, fraud and money laundering,” Brigadier-General Hadi Shirzad, head of Iran‘s branch of the international police organisation Interpol, told state television.
Turkish officials did not immediately comment on the reported extradition.
Iran has been cracking down on online gambling and betting sites, which are illegal under the country’s Islamic laws and have also been accused of money laundering. Iranian media said last week that the central bank had identified 450,000 bank cards used on the websites.
Hatami, a celebrity influencer with 1.2 million followers on Instagram, is based in neighbouring Turkey which is home to many Iranian exiled artists, dissidents and refugees, including about 40,000 United Nations-registered asylum seekers.
Regional powers Iran and Turkey have grown closer under Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan despite sometimes deep differences, including in Syria where they back opposing sides in the 10-year-old conflict.
But the two neigbours’ ties have not been without strains.
Last month, Turkey arrested an Iranian official suspected of instigating the 2019 killing of an Iranian dissident in Istanbul, sources familiar with the matter said.
In December, Turkish officials accused Iranian authorities of targeting another opponent in Istanbul when they announced they had detained 11 people involved in the abduction and smuggling to Iran of an Iranian dissident wanted in connection with a deadly attack in southwestern Iran.
(Reporting by Dubai newsroom, Editing by William Maclean)