Faruk Fatih Özer had been wanted for a year on suspicion of having fled to Albania with two billion dollars in assets belonging to nearly 400,000 users.
“I’ll be back in a few days”, he promised before disappearing: the founder of the cryptocurrency exchange platform Thodex, suspected of having fled Turkey last year with the assets of his clients, was arrested on Tuesday in Albania.
Faruk Fatih Özer’s latest image showed the young entrepreneur passing through passport control at Istanbul airport on April 20, 2021, wearing a black sweater and a surgical mask down, en route to an unknown destination.
“The Interior Minister of the Republic of Albania informed Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu in the morning that the founder of Thodex, the fugitive Faruk Fatih Özer, wanted with a red notice [d’Interpol]was arrested in the Vlora district of Albania,” the Turkish Interior Ministry said.
“His identity has been confirmed by biometric tests. Extradition procedures to Turkey have started,” the ministry said in a statement. Turkey had requested on April 23, 2021 the launch of an international arrest warrant against Faruk Fatih Özer, suspected of having fled to Albania with two billion dollars in assets belonging to nearly 400,000 users.
Albanian police said the 28-year-old Turkish national was arrested around 6:30 a.m. GMT on Tuesday at a hotel in Himara, a small town in southern Albania on the Ionian coast. Two other people suspected of having assisted him were arrested and computers and mobile phones as well as bank cards were seized, the Albanian police added in a press release.
“I’ll be back”
In a message posted on his company’s official Twitter account on April 22, 2021 – two days after leaving Turkey – Mr. Özer denounced “baseless allegations” against him.
Thodex had suspended operations the day before after posting a mysterious message saying it needed five days to process an unspecified outside investment. The entrepreneur then explained that he had gone abroad to meet investors there.
“I will return to Turkey in a few days and cooperate with the judicial authorities so that the truth comes out,” he promised then, before his trace was lost for almost a year and a half. Thodex had conducted a major advertising campaign to attract investors, notably promising to offer luxury cars to some of them.
The platform had also made spectacular discounts on dogecoin, a cryptocurrency originally parody but since inflated by the interest – among others – of the multi-billionaire and Tesla boss Elon Musk. Sixty-two people linked to the company had been arrested in April 2021 in eight Turkish cities, including Istanbul. Several countries, notably the United States, have announced their desire to strengthen the regulation of the cryptocurrency market, judging that the same laws must apply there as on other financial markets.
Many Turks have turned to cryptocurrencies in recent years to try to protect their savings against the sharp devaluation of the Turkish lira and inflation that is approaching 80% over one year. As a result of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s heterodox monetary policy, the Turkish currency has lost nearly 27% of its value against the dollar since January 1, after seeing its value melt by 44% in 2021.