“This is the first time we’ve seen honorary citizenship granted to someone who, by a simple internet search, appears to be involved in illegal activities,” Chira said.
In March 2017, an Istanbul court sentenced Ayavefe to three years and four months in prison after he was found guilty of scamming online gamers over a one-year period between 2008 and 2009.
Through self-created gambling sites, Ayavefe and his partners “ran the game as they chose, won when they wanted, and thus gained an unfair advantage”, determined the court, in a copy of the decision provided to the Greek authorities by Turkey.
On July 13, 2018, the Istanbul Prosecutor General’s Office issued an arrest warrant for Ayavefe in order to serve his sentence, but Ayavefe, at that time, was in Greece.
In February of the following year, Ayavefe was arrested by Greek police as he attempted to cross the border into Bulgaria with a fake Greek passport. Turkey has initiated the procedure to extradite him to serve his sentence for fraud.
A court in Thessaloniki, northern Greece, gave the green light for his extradition on July 25, 2019, but Ayavefe appealed and, about a month later, was granted asylum in Greece after arguing that ‘As a Christian, he was in danger if he was sent back to Greece. Turkey. He argued that his conviction in Turkey was unfounded.
The High Court found no fault with his conviction, but acknowledged that he risked being “persecuted” in Turkey if extradited, given his faith and his position as “a member of a group of dissidents opposed to the political regime in Turkey”.
Legal experts, speaking to Solomon and BIRN, questioned the grounds for protecting Ayavefe. At the time, according to documents submitted to Companies House in the UK, Ayavefe was a citizen of three states – Turkey, Serbia and Dominica.