Faruk Fatih Özer, founder of collapsed Turkish exchange Thodex, along with his two siblings, have been sentenced to 11,196 years in prison, according to local reports. They were also handed a fine of 135 million Liras.
Founded in 2017, Thodex was one of the country’s largest crypto exchanges before it fell apart in April 2021. When Özer fled, more than 400,000 users were unable to access more than $2billion worth of crypto deposits. After hiding in Albania last year, Özer was arrested in August following an Interpol red notice investigation.
In April this year, Özer was extradited to Turkey, and hauled up on seven charges, including creating an organisation with the aim of committing a crime, fraud by using information systems, banks or credit institutions as tools, and laundering the assets of merchants or company managers and cooperative managers resulting from fraud and crime.
Özer’s brother, sister and four other senior execs were then jailed while another 83 people were held as part of the investigation. The trial then saw 21 defendants end up with 40,564 years in prison.
Prosecutors said Özer had moved 250 million liras in user assets to three secret accounts when he fled Turkey in April 2021, with much of it ending up in a Maltese bank.
Yesterday, the Anatolian 9th Heavy Penal Court acquitted 16 of the 21 defendants and let four of the seven jailed go due to a lack of evidence. Other defendants received sentences for various crimes accordingly.
According to the Anadolu state news agency, Ozer told the court: “I am smart enough to lead any institution on Earth. If I were to establish a criminal organisation, I would not have acted so amateurishly.”
Crypto adoption is big in Turkey, as the country battles high inflation, according to a recent survey by KuCoin. In the past year and a half, adoption has increased from 40 to 52 per cent of the Turkish population.
The country is also known for dispensing huge prison sentences, which became frequent after it ended the death penalty in 2004 in order to join the European Union.