Istanbul Criminal Court (archive image): Thodex founder sentenced
Photo: MURAD SEZER/ REUTERS
The founder of the Turkish digital currency exchange Thodex and his two brothers have each been sentenced to 11,196 years in prison, according to the state-run news agency Anadolu. For Faruk Fatih Özer and his brothers, the verdict was handed down late on Thursday after a short trial before a court in Istanbul. The judges' verdict fell far short of the prosecutors' demands. They had demanded a prison sentence of 29,40 years for money laundering, fraud and the formation of a criminal organization for the 562-year-old Özer.
The Thodex founder was arrested in Albania in August 2022 on the basis of an international arrest warrant and later extradited. At the time, the Turkish authorities accused Özer of having fled Turkey with two billion dollars (1.87 billion euros) from the accounts of almost 400,000 investors.
Özer's Istanbul-based cryptocurrency exchange had aggressively courted investors – Turkish models promised luxury cars, for example. The cryptocurrency Dogecoin offered the platform at a quarter of the price that other exchanges charged. However, buyers could not resell them or exchange them for other digital currencies.
In April 2021, the site was no longer accessible – a few days earlier, Thodex had published a notice stating that five days were needed for an "outside investment". Turkish authorities released a photo of Özer taken at passport control at Istanbul airport. Two days after departure, he complained on Twitter that the allegations against him were "unfounded". He was on his way to meet investors.
Courts often impose long sentences
The case made headlines in Turkey as it coincided with a crypto boom in the country. Because of the decline in the value of the Turkish lira, which began more than two years ago, many Turks turned to digital currencies. Since then, however, Ankara has been regulating cryptocurrencies more heavily.
Turkey is known for long prison sentences of its courts. The heavy penalties became more common after the country abolished the death penalty in 2004 to increase its chances of joining the European Union.