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Founder of Turkish Crypto Exchange Thodex Arrested in Albania

Turkish authorities said that Faruk Fatih Özer was arrested today, with previous reports seeking jail time for the Thodex founder of up to 40,564 years.

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Thodex was a cryptocurrency exchange based in Turkey. Image: Shutterstock.

The wanted CEO of crypto exchange Thodex has been caught in Albania, the Turkish Ministry of the Interior said in a statement.

Faruk Fatih Özer was the subject of an Interpol red notice, a worldwide request to law enforcement worldwide to locate and provisionally arrest a person. 

He was wanted over his role in the overnight disappearance of Thodex, which left thousands of customers without access to their accounts.

The process to extradite Özer back to Turkey has been initiated by Interpol, the Turkish government said.

He will face a tough legal battle, with local prosecutors reportedly pursuing jail sentences running to thousands of years long for executives of the defunct exchange.

The Thodex debacle

Operational since 2017, Thodex abruptly halted trading in April 2021, citing an unspecified outside investment that necessitated a four- to five-day pause in trading.

A day later, Özer claimed that the company had been forced to halt trading due to cyberattacks but insisted customer funds were safe and promised to return money to investors shortly. 

On the same day, Turkish police detained 62 people, seized the company’s computers, and froze its accounts.

By this point, Özer had already fled to Albania, but the Turkish government was preparing to have him extradited. This proved to be less than straightforward, however, with the manhunt continuing for months. 

But he was eventually found in Vlorë, a coastal city and the third most populous in Albania. His identity was confirmed using biometric results, Albania’s interior minister told his Turkish counterpart.

In April 2021, it emerged that Thodex had transferred $125 million in Bitcoin to U.S. exchange Kraken before it closed. Blockchain tracking firm Whitestream, which made the discovery, said it appeared to be a “cash out operation,” with executives stealing customer funds.

The government has responded to high crypto uptake in the country with a bill seeking to establish new rules for the industry.

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