Thodex exchange founder, Faruk Fatih Ozer

Thodex exchange founder extradited to Turkey, faces criminal charges

Faruk Fatih Ozer, CEO of defunct digital currency exchange Thodex, has been extradited to Turkey to face charges of fraud and operating a criminal enterprise.

Local news outlets reported that Ozer was extradited from Albania to Turkey after lengthy deliberations between both countries. Ozer’s extradition was approved by the Albanian Ministry of Justice, with the Istanbul Airport Police Department taking custody of him upon arrival.

Following a full medical checkup, insiders say that Ozer will be moved to the holding facilities of the Istanbul Police Department. Ozer’s arrival in Turkey makes it the first time in nearly two years since he halted withdrawals on deposits in Thodex exchange.

Amid a police investigation, Ozer fled to Albania with reportedly $2 billion worth of investor funds, prompting a global search. Interpol issued a “red notice” for his capture, and after 12 months on the run, the fugitive founder was arrested in Albania, setting the stage for a lengthy extradition battle.

If convicted by Turkish courts, the embattled founder faces over 10 years in prison and disgorgement of illicit gains. Since the collapse of the exchanges, Turkish police arrested more than 62 persons across eight provinces linked to the freezing of deposits while issuing 16 arrest warrants.

Authorities took things up a notch by arresting the siblings of the embattled founder after discovering a large cache of digital currencies in their possession. Guven Ozer and Serap Ozer reportedly owned $2.7 million and $14 million worth of digital currencies as they served as active Thodex executives.

Thodex’s collapse opened a can of worms for the local digital currency ecosystem as the incident hardened the central bank’s stance to ban digital asset payments in the country. Payments providers in Turkey have since been precluded from offering digital currency exchanges with “fiat-to-crypto onramps.”

Evading the law

There has been a spike in digital currency executives evading law enforcement agents over fraud-related charges, but recent trends indicate an increase in their arrests.

After nearly one year of avoiding South Korean authorities, Terraform Labs founder Do Kwon was arrested by Montenegrin officials while attempting to travel to Dubai. The U.S. and South Korea are jostling for his extradition while investigators intensify efforts to confiscate his holdings.

OneCoin CEO Ruja Ignatova has continued to evade law enforcement following her $4 billion scam in 2016 despite a multinational manhunt launched for her arrest. Recent report from Bureau for Investigative Reporting and Data (BIRD) claimed that the ‘The Missing Cryptoqueen’ has been allegedly dead for the past five years.

Follow CoinGeek’s Crypto Crime Cartel series, which delves into the stream of groups— from BitMEX to BinanceBitcoin.comBlockstreamShapeShiftCoinbaseRipple,
EthereumFTX and Tether—who have co-opted the digital asset revolution and turned the industry into a minefield for naïve (and even experienced) players in the market.

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