Turkish cryptocurrency boss arrested in Albania: Ministry

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The founder of cryptocurrency exchange Thodex, suspected of having fled Turkey with the assets of his clients, has been arrested in Albania, the Turkish interior ministry said on Tuesday.

Turkey issued an international arrest warrant in April last year for fugitive businessman Faruk Fatih Ozer, who fled with a reported $2.0 billion in investors’ assets.

Tirana had informed Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu that Ozer, who was wanted by Interpol, “was arrested in Vlora, Albania,” the ministry said.

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It added that “extradition procedures to Turkey have been initiated.”

The Thodex exchange launched aggressive campaigns to lure investors.

It first pledged to distribute luxury cars through a flashy advertising campaign featuring famous Turkish models.

But the exchange suspended trading in April after posting a mysterious message days earlier saying it needed five days to deal with an unspecified outside investment.

The Istanbul-based Thodex went dark after running a promotional campaign that sold Dogecoins at one-fourth the price at which they were trading on other exchanges.

But the exchange locked in those investments and did not allow the coins to be either sold or converted into other cryptos.

Turkish security officials then released a photo of Ozer going through passport control at Istanbul airport on his way to an unspecified location.

Media reports said the exchange shut down while holding at least $2.0 billion from 391,000 investors.

More than 60 people linked to the company were arrested.

The manhunt for Ozer came as Turkey’s crypto market started to unravel. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government warned of the risks and announced plans to rein in the digital currency market.

Cryptocurrency had proved a way for many Turks to preserve their savings during a steep drop in the value of the lira.

A number of governments, including those of India, China and Russia, have said they will introduce tighter regulation on cryptocurrencies amid concerns over volatile trading and its potential use for criminal purposes.

In recent years, the crypto sector has benefitted from a vast infusion of cash due to easy money policies by the world’s biggest central banks.

However, rampant inflation has sparked tighter monetary policy across the globe, helping to send the industry crashing.

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