The fugitive founder of the Turkish cryptocurrency exchange, Thodex, was apprehended by police in Albania, after eluding authorities for over a year.
Albania’s Minister of Internal Affairs Bledar Cuci informed his Turkish counterpart Suleyman Soylu that the fugitive, Faruk Fatih Özer, was arrested in the coastal city of Vlorë, the country’s third most populous. The Turkish Interior Ministry affirmed that his identity had been confirmed by biometric results, while the Turkish police’s Interpol department has initiated his extradition proceedings.
In April of last year, users of Turkish crypto exchange Thodex filed a fraud complaint, claiming they were unable to withdraw hundreds of millions of dollars in cryptocurrencies.
Although the exchange announced that it had “temporarily closed” to address an “abnormal fluctuation in the company accounts,” Özer became unresponsive during this period and was alleged to have absconded to Albania with $2 billion in users’ funds.
Turkish authorities subsequently issued an international arrest warrant for Özer, followed shortly thereafter by a red notice from Interpol, with charges including fraud and founding a criminal organization.
Over the course of the past year, a total of 68 suspects were arrested in Turkey as part of an investigation into Thodex, among them the brother and sister of the fugitive founder. According to a report from Bloomberg, the prosecutor is seeking sentences of up to 40,564 years for some 21 defendants.
Bitcoin in Turkey
Although Turkey has had a jaded history regarding cryptocurrencies, outlawing them as a form of payment during the boom last year, Bitcoin has surged in popularity this year. While soaring inflation has seen investors flee riskier assets like crypto and tech stocks, in Turkey it instead drew them to cryptocurrencies.
Turkey’s inflation rate hit its highest level in 24 years in July, at 78.62%. While the Turkish lira weakened, the amount of BTC volume on LocalBitcoins in the region grew considerably. BTC peer-to-peer trading volumes in the first quarter and second quarter of 2022 saw massive gains compared to the fourth quarter of 2021.
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