In a significant legal development, Faruk Fatih Özer, the former leader of the now-collapsed Turkish cryptocurrency exchange Thodex, along with his siblings Serap Özer and Güven Özer, has been handed an astonishing collective sentence of 11,196 years, 10 months, and 15 days in incarceration, as reported by local media. Additionally, a judicial fine of 135 million Turkish liras (approximately $5 million) was levied.
Thodex, once among Turkey’s largest cryptocurrency exchanges, abruptly ceased operations in April 2021, with Özer going into hiding. Over 400,000 registered users were left in the dark, unable to access deposits valued at $2 billion in various cryptocurrencies. Özer had fled to Albania but was apprehended in August 2022, following an Interpol red notice issued against him.
By April 2023, Özer had been extradited to Turkey, where he was promptly arrested on seven charges, including the establishment and management of a criminal organization, membership in a criminal organization, fraudulent activities using information systems linked to banks or credit institutions, deceit involving merchants, corporate executives, and cooperative managers, as well as money laundering related to ill-gotten assets.
When the case initially surfaced, Özer’s brother, sister, and four high-ranking employees were incarcerated, while at least 83 individuals were detained during the investigation. The subsequent trial involved 21 defendants, each facing the possibility of serving up to 40,564 years in prison.
The Anatolian 9th Heavy Penal Court delivered its verdict on Thursday, absolving 16 of the 21 defendants and releasing four of the seven individuals who were previously detained due to a lack of compelling evidence. The remaining defendants received varying prison sentences corresponding to their respective charges.
The collapse of Thodex triggered significant upheaval in Turkey, where cryptocurrencies had been adopted as a safeguard against rampant inflation and the steep devaluation of the national currency, the lira.