Istanbul (AFP)

Turkey on Friday opened proceedings to issue an international arrest warrant against the founder of a cryptocurrency exchange who fled with $ 2 billion in investor assets, media reported. State.

Turkish security officials on Thursday released a photo of Thodex platform founder Faruk Fatih Ozer passing passport control at Istanbul Airport on his way to an unspecified location.

But security sources later confirmed he was in Albania.

The Justice Ministry has taken steps to arrest and extradite Faruk Fatih Ozer from Albania, state news agency Anadolu reported.

Information that comes after the police arrested 62 people for alleged links with the company, the suspects were apprehended during simultaneous raids in eight cities, including Istanbul, said the Anadolu agency.

Police issued arrest warrants for 16 others but the media did not have information on the suspects.

Police raided the company's headquarters in the Asian part of Istanbul and seized computer equipment, media reported.

The Thodex platform has suspended operations after posting a mysterious message on Wednesday saying it needed five days to process an unspecified outside investment.

- "Unfounded allegations" -

According to media reports, Thodex closed when it held at least $ 2 billion from 391,000 investors.

Investor attorney Oguz Evren Kilic said the investigation "is deepening" in a telephone interview with AFP on Friday.

"Hundreds of thousands of users cannot access their digital wallets. The situation will tend to worsen if no concrete action is taken" by Thodex, he said.

Customers have already lodged complaints with the prosecution office, which is investigating the businessman for "aggravated fraud and founding a criminal organization".

In a message posted on the company's official Twitter account, Mr. Ozer denounced the "baseless allegations."

He explained that he was abroad for meetings with foreign investors and that he would return home "in a few days and cooperate with the judicial authorities so that the truth can come out."

An increasing number of Turks are turning to cryptocurrencies in an attempt to protect their economies in the face of the sharp decline in the value of Turkish currency and high inflation.

Turkey's cryptocurrency market remains unregulated despite growing skepticism from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government about its security.

Turkey's central bank has said it will ban the use of cryptocurrencies in payments for goods and services from April 30.

She warned that cryptocurrencies "carry significant risk" as the market is volatile and lacks oversight.

© 2021 AFP