It was the end of the line for Thodex crypto-exchange founder Faruk Fatih Ozer when authorities caught up with him in Himare, a resort town in the southern region of Albania, on Tuesday, August 30th.
The 28-year-old Turkish national was arrested together with two of his Albanian helpers by local authorities. Ozer faces charges of suspected cryptocurrency fraud and had been on the run from Interpol agents for over a year when he was captured.
Albanian police also seized several laptops, mobile phones, and several bank cards ostensibly used by Ozer for his fraudulent activities. The Turkish interior ministry likewise announced that local authorities had begun the process of extraditing the suspect back to his home country.
Local authorities referred to the operation that tracked down and caught Ozer as Operation Brain. It was, essentially, a manhunt throughout several parts of the country driven by information gleaned by operatives regarding a high-level fugitive on the run from both Interpol and the Turkish authorities.
The officers involved in Ozer’s arrest and subsequent detention have since been congratulated for successfully capturing the fugitive.
What Happened Before?
Before he went on the lam, Ozer’s company Thodex handled daily crypto trades of up to several hundred million dollars. It had been operating since it was founded in 2017 as Koineks. At the time, it was the fourth cryptocurrency exchange established in Turkey.
However, on April 19th last year, thousands of users noted that their transactions were being disrupted or were stalling completely. When trading suddenly stopped the following day, April 20, 2021, users were in an uproar and fraud on the part of Ozer, and his associates was suspected.
Company executives released a statement assuring users that trading would resume within the next five days, claiming that they needed to shut down trading for a while to discuss an agreement with a new investor. It proved to be a ruse that enabled Ozer to leave Turkey; he fled to Albania with nearly $2 billion in digital assets in his hands.
On April 22, 2021, arrest warrants were issued for Ozer and numerous company executives, including his brother and sister. In a raid some days after, police came away with six arrests, including Ozer’s siblings; all have been imprisoned and are awaiting sentencing as of press time.
Turkey’s Public Prosecutor’s Office noted that the suspects converted money taken from clients into cryptocurrency and gold assets. It was also determined that Thodex lured in its customers with false advertising.