Aruk Fatih Özer, founder and CEO of Turkish cryptocurrency exchange Thodex, which was shut down last year, has been arrested in the Albanian coastal city of Vlora. The Turkish interior minister announced on Tuesday. Özer, 28, is accused of disappearing with his customers’ money more than a year ago. Around 400,000 Thodex users were affected. He faces over 40,000 years in prison under the Turkish legal framework.
The platform, founded in 2017, allowed trading crypto assets such as Bitcoin, Ethereum and others; it was among Turkey’s most important trading portals. In April 2021, the company stopped trading. First, under the pretext of a short trading pause due to an unspecified investment. Later, it said there was a cyberattack, but customer funds were available.
After the exchange went out of business, Turkish authorities arrested 62 people, froze company accounts and seized digital infrastructure. Özer had already fled by this time. Investor losses are believed to be around two billion euros. The Thodex scam is considered the biggest fraud of 2021, with information surfacing in April 2021 that Thodex had transferred $125 million to crypto exchange Kraken before it went out of business, according to the Bloomberg news agency.
Thodex had lured investors with elaborate advertising campaigns, promising luxury cars, among other things. The fugitive CEO was wanted worldwide by Interpol. Özer is to be extradited to Turkey, where he faces a tough legal battle. According to “Bloomberg,” he faces a prison sentence of up to 40,564 years. Özer’s identity was confirmed “based on biometric results,” according to Turkish authorities.