The founder and former CEO of Thodex, a Turkish cryptocurrency exchange that collapsed in 2021, has been sentenced to more than 11,000 years in prison for fraud and money laundering.
Faruk Fatih Özer and his two siblings were convicted by a Turkish court on Wednesday of running a criminal organization that defrauded thousands of investors of their digital assets worth $2 billion.
Crypto Industry in Turkey Under Fire
Thodex was one of the largest crypto platforms in Turkey before it abruptly shut down its services in April 2021, leaving its users unable to access their funds. Özer fled the country with the stolen assets but was later arrested in Albania in August 2022 and extradited to Turkey in April 2023.
Özer denied any wrongdoing and claimed that Thodex was a legitimate business that went bankrupt due to market conditions. He said he was smart enough to manage any institution in the world and that he did not act amateurishly. He also said that he and his family were victims of injustice.
The court did not accept Özer’s defense and found him guilty of “establishing, managing and being a member of an organization”, “qualified fraud”, and “laundering of property values”. He was sentenced to 11,196 years, 10 months, and 15 days in prison, along with a $5 million fine. His two siblings received the same sentence and a fine.
In the Thodex case, there were a total of 21 defendants, with only five of them attending the hearing in person. The court found that there was a lack of evidence to support the charge of “qualified fraud” against 16 of the defendants and acquitted them.
Four defendants were ordered to be released, while the remaining defendants received sentences based on their level of involvement in the scam.
The Thodex scandal was one of the biggest crypto frauds in history and sparked public outrage and calls for regulation in Turkey. The Turkish government has since introduced new rules and oversight for crypto exchanges and service providers.