In a shocking verdict, a Turkish court has sentenced Faruk Fatih Ozer, the founder and CEO of Thodex, a cryptocurrency exchange that collapsed in 2021, to 11,196 years in prison for multiple crimes including fraud, leading a criminal organization, and money laundering. His two siblings, who were also involved in the operation of Thodex, received the same prison term.
Thodex was launched in 2017 by Ozer, a high-school dropout who claimed to be a self-taught crypto expert. The exchange attracted millions of users with its low fees and promotional offers, such as giving away free Dogecoins. However, in April 2021, Thodex abruptly halted its services, leaving thousands of investors unable to access their funds. Ozer fled the country with an estimated $2 billion worth of cryptocurrencies, sparking an international manhunt.
Ozer was eventually captured in Albania and extradited to Turkey after a lengthy legal process. He faced trial along with 78 other suspects, including his siblings and employees of Thodex. During the trial, Ozer denied any wrongdoing and said he was smart enough to lead any institution on Earth. He also claimed that he had not acted amateurishly and that Thodex was not a criminal organization.
However, the court did not buy his arguments and found him guilty of aggravated fraud, leading a criminal organization, and money laundering. The court also found that Ozer and his siblings had defrauded 2,027 victims of 356 million liras ($13 million), according to the prosecutor’s indictment. However, some media reports and a study by Chainalysis suggest that the total amount of losses could be much higher, reaching up to $2.6 billion.
The court handed down an extraordinary prison sentence of 11,196 years to each of the three defendants, which is equivalent to about 307 life sentences. Such long prison terms are common in Turkey since the abolition of the death penalty in 2004. The court also ordered the confiscation of all assets belonging to Ozer and his siblings.
The verdict is a landmark case in Turkey’s crypto history and a warning to other fraudulent actors in the industry. It also highlights the need for more regulation and oversight of the crypto sector in Turkey, where millions of people have turned to cryptocurrencies as a hedge against inflation and currency devaluation.