Police arrest fugitive Turkish crypto fraud suspect in Albania

The accused, founder of crypto-exchange Thodex, was at large for more than a year

A screen grab made from a CCTV released by Demiroren News Agency on April 22,2021 shows Thodex founder Faruk Fatih Ozer on passport control at Istanbul international airport.  Turkish prosecutors on April 22, 2021, opened an investigation after the Istanbul-based founder of a cryptocurrency exchange shut down his site and fled the country with a reported $2 billion in investors' assets.The Thodex website went dark after posting a mysterious message saying it was suspending trading for five days on April 21, because of an unspecified outside investment. - RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO /Demiroren News Agency  " - NO MARKETING - NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS
 / AFP / Demiroren News Agency (DHA) / Handout / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO /Demiroren News Agency  " - NO MARKETING - NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS
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Albanian police on Tuesday arrested Faruk Fatih Ozer, the fugitive Turkish founder of cryptocurrency exchange Thodex, in Himare, southern Albania.

Mr Ozer was wanted by Interpol and Turkish authorities over crypto fraud. He was at large for more than a year.

Albanian police referred to Mr Ozer, who was arrested with two other Albanians, by the initials FO and code-named the operation “Brain”.

“After many searches in several regions of the country, based on the information received on the operative route about the location of a person highly wanted by Turkish justice … Operation Brain was organised and finalised,” Reuters reported, citing a police statement said.

“As part of this operation, Turkish citizen FO, 28 years old, was arrested and detained."

Police confiscated laptops, mobile devices and bank cards, the statement said.

Thodex was part of the digital currency boom that attracted many Turkish investors to protect their capital and savings from inflation and a fluctuating currency.

In a bid to attract more investors, in March 2021, the company launched a campaign to boost membership by offering millions of free Dogecoins, a peer-to-peer, open-source cryptocurrency, to new members. Then, its website said 4 million of the coins were distributed free. However, many new members complained on social media that they never received them.

In April last year, Thodex announced its operations were stopping as it lacked the financial strength.

It left hundreds of investors fearing their savings would disappear, as police started a search for Mr Ozer. Turkish authorities blocked the company’s accounts and police raided its head office in Istanbul.

After the raids, police arrested six people, including Thodex’s senior executives and Mr Ozer’s brother and sister.

Mr Ozer disappeared and allegedly fled to Albania after the crypto trading platform closed. Previously, he had issued a statement claiming he would repay investors and return to Turkey to face justice at the right time.

Interpol had issued a red notice to find Mr Ozer on Turkey’s request.

The Interior Ministry in Ankara said authorities had started extradition proceedings to bring Mr Ozer to Turkey to face a criminal trial, a Bloomberg report said. Mr Ozer and his accomplices are accused of setting up a criminal firm, committing fraud through technology and laundering capital from criminal activity.

Updated: August 31, 2022, 3:51 AM
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