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Faruk Fatih Özer, the founder and CEO of defunct Turkish crypto exchange Thodex, was sentenced to 11,196 years in jail on Thursday, as reported by local media sources.
He was found guilty of aggravated fraud, leading a criminal organization, and money laundering.
“I am smart enough to lead any institution on Earth,” Özer told the court, as reported by Fortune. “That is evident in this company I established at the age of 22. I wouldn’t have acted so amateurishly if this were a criminal organization.”
Özer’s two siblings, who helped him run the exchange, were sentenced to similar jail terms.
Additionally, a court-ordered fine of approximately 135 million Liras (around $5 million) was levied against them.
The eventual trial saw 21 defendants facing up to 40,564 years in prison. 16 of the 21 defendants were acquitted and four of the seven persons jailed were freed due to a lack of evidence.
Other defendants were given varying degrees of imprisonment for various crimes.
Decrypt has reached out to the Turkish authorities for comment and will update this article should they respond.
The Thodex collapse
Founded in 2017, Thodex was the biggest crypto exchange in Turkey before its collapse.
400,000 users were left without access to their crypto deposits, totalling close to $2 billion.
The exchange’s closure was first attributed by Özer to a pause to an undefined external investment which required a four to five-day trading hiatus.
But just a day later, Özer shifted the narrative, stating that cyberattacks had forced the halt to trading. Despite this, he claimed that customer funds remained secure and vowed to reimburse investors.
After the platform’s collapse, Faruk Fatih Özer vanished, escaping to Albania. He was ultimately located in Vlorë, a major coastal city in Albania, in August 2022.
The collapse of Thodex was particularly shocking in Turkey, coinciding as it did with the devaluation of the Turkish lira and subsequent inflation in the country.