In a dramatic court appearance in Turkey, Faruk Fetih Özer, founder of the now-defunct Turkish cryptocurrency exchange Thodex, vehemently denied all fraud allegations against him. The 29-year-old businessman, who allegedly fled the country after the suspension of trading services and the closure of the official Thodex website, faces accusations of embezzling more than $2 billion in user funds, marking the largest cryptocurrency scam in Turkey’s history.
Reports indicate that Özer was detained in Albania last summer and then deported to Turkey, where legal proceedings will determine his involvement in the exchange’s collapse and a potential prison sentence.
During an extensive 11-hour hearing, Özer denied claims of defrauding many Thodex customers and depleting their assets, stating that he had been framed. He revealed that his company’s initial focus was e-commerce but then shifted its direction to the exciting world of cryptocurrencies. Özer explains that he started engaging in mobile transactions with software developers he added to his team, immersing himself in the digital world to build cryptocurrency exchanges.
Özer highlighted the lack of proper crypto companies in Turkey in 2017 as another reason Thodex jumped into the digital asset scene. He stated that the company’s transactions were carried out automatically while he was the authorized person to oversee the activities. Özer reviews weekly transactions from the company’s platform to the bank, ensuring there are no security vulnerabilities.
Subsequently, Özer claimed that several of his employees, including his two siblings, were unlawfully imprisoned. He also stressed that the initial membership agreement clearly stated that he should not be held liable for any future losses, with clients using the company’s services aware of the associated risks.
The sudden termination of Thodex’s trading services in the spring of 2021 left the company’s 400,000 customers shocked and unable to withdraw their funds. Adding to the problem, CEO Özer was reluctant to address the problem and did not cooperate with domestic authorities. Instead, he fled the country, reportedly fleeing with over $2 billion in user cash. His whereabouts remained unknown for over a year, with rumors suggesting he may be hiding in Albania. However, the fugitive was eventually caught in August 2022, prompting Turkish authorities to pursue his extradition and initiate legal proceedings against him.
If convicted, Özer faces an astonishing possible sentence exceeding 40,000 years in prison.