Former crypto CEO faces potential 40,000-year sentence in Turkish jail

Faruk Özer disappeared in April 2021 after shutting down Thodex, an Istanbul-based crypto platform, and absconding with millions of dollars in investor money.

BARCELONA, SPAIN - JANUARY 29: A Bitcoin ATM machine, to buy or sell cryptocurrencies, is placed wit...
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Faruk Özar, formerly the CEO of Thodex, a Turkish cryptocurrency exchange, disappeared last April after freezing user activity on the platform. The company’s ensuing collapse led to losses that are estimated to be anywhere from $24 million to $2.6 billion. Now, about a year after fleeing the country, Özar, along with 21 other high-ranking officials at Thodex, were reported to have been facing an indictment that “[sought] sentences of up to 40,564 years for each of the [defendants].”

Özar was recently spotted (security footage caught him at the Istanbul airport in April 2021), and the disgraced executive has been apprehended by law enforcement in Albania. He’s currently facing potential extradition to Turkey, according to The Block.

Around the time of his disappearance last April, Özar made a statement from an unknown location, maintaining that he would return to Turkey on the day he repaid all of his debt. As mentioned in the Chainalysis report linked above, Thodex’s sudden withdrawal freeze accounted for about 90 percent of the total value lost to rug pulls in 2021.

Off the grid — Local reports at the time of Thodex’s shutdown claim the platform was being used by close to 400,000 people and that Özar fled to Albania on April 20, 2021. It took nearly a year for any sort of criminal charge to be filed against the company and its founders, which goes to show how difficult it can be to prosecute someone for a crypto-related crime that isn’t explicitly insider trading.

A lack of precedent for rug-pulling, in addition to the evidence needed to prove that the action took place has made it complicated to punish early offenders. Many celebrity NFT rug pulls will be swept under the, well... rug.

It remains to be seen whether or not Özar will actually be extradited back to Turkey. At the time of the indictment (this April) against Thodex, he was a wanted criminal according to INTERPOL. United Nations law states that “extradition may be granted only when provided for by international treaties in which [Albania] is a party,” and that “[extradition] shall be granted when [Albanian and foreign law] provide for the criminal act, which [meets] the request for extradition.”

Because Albania is a member of INTERPOL, and the establishment of a criminal organization, fraud, and money laundering are universally illegal, it would appear likely that Özar is sent back to atone for his crimes.