Former CEO Faruk Fatih Özer of the bankrupt Turkish crypto exchange Thodex has been given a record-breaking prison sentence for stealing $2 billion in customer funds.
On Thursday, September 7, 2023, the former CEO of Thodex, which was one of the biggest cryptocurrency exchanges in Turkey, was reportedly sentenced to 11,196 years, 10 months, and 15 days in prison for several criminal charges including fraud, leading a criminal organization, and money laundering by the Anatolian 9th Heavy Penal Court.
The former CEO reportedly defrauded over 400,000 Turkish customers of more than $2 billion in deposits when the exchange went offline in April 2021, and Özer fled the country immediately after the exchange went offline.
The prosecutors had initially requested a 40,562-year prison sentence for the former crypto exchange CEO. However, the final verdict saw the sentence reduced to 11,196 years, the longest sentence so far for a crypto crime. Furthermore, a judicial fine of 135 million Liras was also imposed on the former CEO, according to local media.
Faruk Fatih Özer was not the only one involved in the alleged crime. Following the investigation, 83 people were arrested and detained, and four other senior employees were jailed.
When the case was thoroughly investigated, Özer‘s sister Serap Özer, and brother Guven Özer, were also found guilty of the same charges and were given the same prison sentence respectively.
Although these jail terms may seem outrageous and unfamiliar to many, they are very common in Turkey due to the country’s death sentence eradication since 2004. In 2022, TV cult preacher Adnan Oktar was convicted of fraud and sexual assault and was sentenced to 8,658 years in prison along with 10 of his followers.
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The 29-year-old former crypto boss was arrested in Albania in August 2022 where he was serving jail terms after fleeing Turkey in April 2021 when his crypto exchange first collapsed.
Before his arrest, Özer denied claims against him fleeing the country intentionally when the Thodex exchange went dark. His response to the allegations was that he was out of the country because of business meetings.
Özer was arrested after Interpol issued a red notice against him, and was extradited back to Turkey in April 2023 to face the charges against him. He was then detained by the police upon arrival and held on seven charges.
Some of the charges included establishing and managing an organization with the purpose of committing a crime, fraud by using information systems as a tool of banks or credit institutions, being a member of an organization, fraud of merchants or company executives and cooperative managers, and laundering the value of assets resulting from crime, among others.
The court believed that Özer had fraudulent intentions right from the beginning and that the crypto exchange Thodex was a criminal organization from the start.
However, Özer denied these claims against him and said Thodex was just a crypto company that went bankrupt in 2021 and had no fraudulent intention. He also told the court that he was very smart and he would not have acted so amateurish if he was looking to be a criminal.
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