Faruk Fatih Özer — the founder and former CEO of Turkey-based Thodex — was sentenced to 11,196 years in prison on Thursday by a court in Istanbul, according to reports.
Faruk, who managed the exchange until it went bust in 2021, was found guilty of aggravated fraud, leading a criminal organization, and money laundering.
“I am smart enough to lead any institution on Earth,” Özer told the court. That is evident in this company I established at the age of 22. I wouldn’t have acted so amateurishly if this were a criminal organization,” Fortune reported Özer as saying in his court statement.
Özer’s brother and sister, who helped him operate Thodex, were slapped with similar jail terms. The Anatolian 9th Heavy Penal Court also levied a $5 million fine against them.
The $2 Billion Thodex Debacle
Operational since 2017, Thodex was one of Turkey’s biggest crypto exchanges before it abruptly halted trading in April 2021.
Over 400,000 users were left in the dark without access to their cryptocurrency deposits totalling $2 billion.
Faruk Fatih Özer initially claimed an unspecified outside investment necessitated a four to five-day trading suspension. The former CEO, however, changed the story days later, positing that cyberattacks had prompted the trading hiatus. He denied all claims of a possible exit scam while maintaining that customer funds were safe and promising to compensate all affected users.
On the same day, Turkish police detained 62 people as part of the investigation, confiscated the firm’s computers, and froze its accounts.
At this point, Faruk had already fled to Albania. Following a red notice by Interpol, the fugitive founder was eventually arrested in Vlorë — a major coastal city in Albania — in August 2022. The failed crypto CEO was finally extradited back to Turkey earlier this year.
The implosion of Thodex caused an uproar in Turkey as it came while the country’s citizens swarmed to crypto to hedge against the devaluation of the Turkish lira and subsequent inflation in the nation.