Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu has said that Türkiye is waiting for Faruk Fatih Özer’s extradition, who was arrested by Albanian police for defrauding investors in his cryptocurrency platform Thodex.
The fingerprints and photo of Özer were shared with Turkish police, after which his identity, who was seen to have shaved his hair to avoid being recognized, was clarified through biometric authentication when the facial recognition system and fingerprint data matched.
Upon which, work was initiated by the Interpol for the extradition of Özer, who was allegedly planning to escape from Albania by sea.
Stating they have contacted the Albanian police, Soylu said two officials went to Albania regarding the issue. “The process depends on when the court there will be. We are waiting for this return within the framework of the decision to be issued.”
In the lawsuit filed with the allegation that thousands of people were defrauded over Thodex, some 21 defendants were on trial, six of whom were imprisoned.
A prison sentence of 40,564 years is sought for each of these 21 people, including Özer as over 2,000 people are included in the indictment as complainants.
Most of the crypto assets in Özer’s three separate bank accounts were transferred to Malta, the center of the cryptocurrency exchange, according to the Financial Crime Investigation Board (MASAK).
The manhunt for Özer came amid the turmoil that Türkiye’s crypto market started to experience. The government warned of the risks and announced plans to rein in the digital currency market.
The Istanbul-based Thodex exchange launched aggressive campaigns to lure investors. It first pledged to distribute luxury cars through a flashy advertising campaign featuring famous Turkish models.
But the exchange suspended trading in April 2021 after having posted a mysterious message days earlier saying it needed five days to deal with an unspecified outside investment.
Two days after leaving Türkiye last year, Özer denounced the “baseless allegations” against him in a message posted on his company’s official Twitter account.
The businessman said he had gone abroad to meet investors. “I will return to Türkiye in a few days and cooperate with the judicial authorities so that the truth comes out,” he promised at the time.
Özer, who fled Türkiye with a reported $20 million in investors’ assets, was caught in Albania, the Interior Ministry said on Aug. 30.
Tirana had informed Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu that Özer “was arrested in Vlora, Albania,” the ministry said. It added that “extradition procedures to Türkiye have been initiated.”
Albanian police said in a statement that the 28-year-old had been arrested at a hotel in Himara, a small town in southern Albania on the Ionian coast.
Two people suspected of having assisted him were also arrested in an operation dubbed “Brain,” police said, with computers, mobile phones and bank cards being seized.
Earlier, the founder of Vebitcoin, İlker Baş, his wife and two employees were also arrested after it halted operations on April 23. Baş was accused of making fraudulent XRP altcoin transactions worth over $24 million from customer accounts to other accounts in a month.
The Turkish Central Bank, the Treasury and Finance Ministry and financial watchdogs are expected to finalize a regulation package for the cryptocurrency market in the upcoming days.
The Central Bank’s ban on using cryptocurrencies for making payments, which was introduced in response to claims that such transactions are too risky, took effect on April 30.
A number of governments, including the United States, have said they will introduce tighter regulation on cryptocurrencies amid concerns over volatile trading and its potential use for criminal purposes.
In recent years, the crypto sector has benefited from a vast infusion of cash due to easy money policies by the world’s biggest central banks.
However, rampant inflation has sparked tighter monetary policy across the globe, helping to send the industry crashing. Bitcoin has lost more than half its value since the beginning of the year.