Digital currency users in Turkey are going through some dark times. Exchanges in the Middle Eastern country have been collapsing recently, with signs of exit scams. One of these is Thodex, an exchange suspected of taking $2 billion from close to 400,000 investors. Turkish police have since arrested 62 people associated with the exchange but the owner has reportedly fled the country.
It started last week when Thodex announced on its website that it would be unavailable for several days to handle a sales process. The vague message didn’t reveal details such as when it would be back and if the users’ funds were safe, prompting investors to start voicing their frustration. In addition, a local lawyer filed a lawsuit against the digital currency exchange on claims of aggravated fraud. This prompted the country’s authorities to start investigating the exchange.
According to local state media, police have now arrested 62 people associated with the exchange. They are still on the hunt for 16 more as investigations intensify.
Thodex CEO Faruk Fatih Ozer has reportedly fled the country and is now in Albania, according to local sources. Before fleeing Turkey, Ozer reportedly contemplated suicide or giving himself up to the authorities. However, according to Bloomberg, he decided against both.
“So I decided to stay alive and fight, work and repay my debts to you. The day I repay all my debt, I will return to my country and give myself in to justice.”
Turkey’s Justice Ministry has issued a red notice for Ozer to Interpol, which is used to alert police in all member states about the presence of an international fugitive.
Thodex has insisted that the shutdown is temporary and is not an exit scam. In a statement, the exchange claimed that it had found an ‘abnormality’ in its accounts and that it shut down the exchange to investigate this. On the CEO leaving Turkey, it claimed this was only to meet overseas investors. He will be returning soon to cooperate with the authorities, the exchange claims. However, for its 390,000 stranded users, this is simply not good enough.
Still in Turkey, a second exchange has shut down just days after Thodex. In a statement on its website, Vebitcoin exchange claimed:
“Due to the recent developments in the crypto money industry, our transactions have become much more intense than expected. We have decided to cease our activities in order to fulfill all regulations and claims. We will provide you with information as soon as possible.”
Turkish police have blocked Vebitcoin’s domestic bank accounts.
Orkun Godek, an investment researcher based in the capital Istanbul, remarked, “This market looks like a bottomless pit and regulation is absolutely needed. Risks may trigger new risks. People may close positions elsewhere to counter their crypto losses.”
Follow CoinGeek’s Crypto Crime Cartel series, which delves into the stream of groups—from BitMEX to Binance, Bitcoin.com, Blockstream, ShapeShift, Coinbase, Ripple and Ethereum—who have co-opted the digital asset revolution and turned the industry into a minefield for naïve (and even experienced) players in the market.
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