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CEO of collapsed crypto exchange given 11,196-year prison sentence

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A high criminal court in İstanbul has handed down a prison sentence of 11,196 years to Faruk Fatih Özer, the former CEO of collapsed cryptocurrency exchange Thodex, for crimes including fraud, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

Özer, 29, who was extradited from Albania to Turkey in April, stood trial on charges of managing a criminal organization, aggravated fraud and money laundering.

At the end of the trial, which concluded on Thursday, he was convicted of charges of aggravated fraud, leading a criminal organization and money laundering.

In his defense statement to the court, Özer denied having established a criminal organization, claiming that Thodex was a company that went bankrupt.

“I am smart enough to manage any organization in the world. The company I established at the age of 22 shows this. If my intention had been to establish a criminal organization, I would not have acted so amateurishly,” he said.

There were a total of 21 defendants in the trial, seven of whom were in pre-trial detention.

Özer’s brother, Güven Özer, and his sister, Serap Özer, who were also defendants in the trial, were each given a prison sentence of six years, four months in addition to a fine of TL 135 million ($5 million) on charges of fraud through the use of information technologies.

Sixteen other defendants were acquitted of fraud due to the lack of evidence, which led to the release of four of them from pre-trial detention.

Thodex, established in 2017, abruptly halted operations in 2021, leaving 2,027 customers with losses, according to the indictment. Özer had disappeared following the collapse of the platform but was arrested in Albania in August 2022 after Turkey issued an INTERPOL Red Notice for him. In early April Albania’s top court ruled for his extradition, ending his legal battle against deportation.

The total losses incurred by investors when Thodex imploded are still unclear. The prosecutor’s initial indictment estimated the losses to be around $24 million, but Turkish media have reported figures as high as $2 billion. According to Chainalysis, the value of cryptocurrency lost at Thodex earlier this year was $2.6 billion, making it the largest “rug pull” of 2021.

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