Faruk Fatih Özer, the founder of the now-defunct Turkish cryptocurrency exchange Thodex, along with his sister Serap Özer and brother Güven Özer, have received a collective prison sentence of 11,196 years, 10 months, and 15 days, as reported by local media sources. Additionally, they have been ordered to pay a judicial fine of 135 million Turkish liras (approximately $5 million).
Thodex used to be among Turkey's leading cryptocurrency exchanges until it unexpectedly ceased operations in April 2021, accompanied by the disappearance of its founder, Özer. This abrupt closure left over 400,000 users in a state of uncertainty, unable to access their combined deposits amounting to $2 billion in various cryptocurrencies. Özer had initially fled to Albania but was eventually apprehended in August 2022 following the issuance of an Interpol red notice for his arrest.
In April 2023, Özer was extradited to Turkey and immediately taken into custody by the authorities on seven charges. These charges encompassed allegations of founding and overseeing an organization with criminal intent, participation in a criminal organization, utilizing information systems to commit bank or credit institution fraud, engaging in fraudulent activities targeting merchants, corporate executives, and cooperative managers, as well as the laundering of assets derived from criminal activities.
When the case was exposed, Özer's brother, sister, and four other high-ranking employees were arrested, and a total of 83 individuals were apprehended as part of the investigation. The subsequent trial involved 21 defendants potentially facing a combined sentence of up to 40,564 years in prison.
The Anatolian 9th Heavy Penal Court delivered its verdict on Thursday, acquitting 16 out of the 21 defendants and granting freedom to four of the seven individuals previously detained due to insufficient evidence. The remaining defendants received varying prison sentences for their involvement in different criminal activities.
The Thodex collapse sent shockwaves through Turkey, where cryptocurrencies had become a popular choice for safeguarding wealth amidst rampant inflation and the significant devaluation of the lira.