A man who fled his home country of Turkey after allegedly scamming a reported $2 billion from over 400,000 digital asset traders has been arrested in Albania.
Faruk Fatih Özer was the CEO of Thodex, a digital asset exchange that went bust in April 2021. At first, it halted withdrawals, claiming technical glitches but later said it was due to cyber-attacks. Later, it would emerge that the executives were executing an exit scam.
Reports in Turkey at the time claimed that Faruk and his co-conspirators had taken off with $2 billion in investor funds from at least 400,000 traders. Chainalysis put the figure at $2.6 billion. The CEO has since then been a fugitive, with Interpol releasing a red notice for him.
In a statement this week, Albanian Minister of Internal Affairs Bledar Çuçi revealed that the fugitive had now been arrested in Vlorë, a seaside city in southwestern Albania. His identity was confirmed using biometrics, the minister revealed in the statement that was directed at his Turkish counterpart.
The arrest could set the stage for one of the digital asset industry’s most sensational legal actions. In April 2022, prosecutors in Turkey unveiled an indictment in which they called on the court to sentence the fugitive to 40,564 years in prison. The prosecutors also called for similar sentences for the 62 other people arrested in 2021 in connection with the case, charging them with establishing a criminal organization, fraud through informatics systems, and laundering proceeds from criminal activity.
Before he fled to Albania, Faruk was found to have transferred $125 million in BTC to Kraken, an exchange that flirts way too closely with illegal activities. However, Faruk pretended to be remorseful publicly, even claiming he had contemplated suicide.
“So I decided to stay alive and fight, work and repay my debts to you. The day I repay all my debt, I will return to my country and give myself in to justice,” he claimed at the time.
Thodex was the biggest scam in the digital asset industry in 2021, accounting for 90% of all the funds that investors lost to rug pulls last year.
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