CEO of Crypto Exchange Thodex Gets 11,000 Years Amid Adoption in Turkey

By  Noah Washington September 28, 2023

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  • Thodex CEO Faruk Fatih Özer received a 11,196 year prison sentence for alleged fraud and money laundering related to the disappearance of $2 billion in user funds.
  • The collapse of Thodex in 2021 eroded trust in crypto exchanges in Turkey, similar to the impact of the FTX collapse globally
  • Crypto adoption is growing in Turkey, with over 8 million active investors, as many see it as an alternative to the volatile lira and a path to financial freedom

On September 7, 2023, the former CEO of the Turkish crypto exchange Thodex, Faruk Fatih Özer, has been handed an astonishing 11,196-year prison sentence by a Turkish court. The charges against him include "establishing, managing, and being a member of an organization," "qualified fraud," and "laundering of property values."

This unprecedented sentencing also extends to his two siblings, who received identical prison terms, alongside a staggering $5-million fine.

The Rise and Fall of Thodex

Thodex had once been a shining star in the Turkish cryptocurrency landscape, rapidly ascending to the ranks of the largest crypto trading platforms in the country. However, its meteoric rise was followed by an abrupt and catastrophic fall in 2021.

The exchange suspended its services without any prior warning, leaving its users in a state of shock and disbelief. More disturbingly, the founder, Özer, vanished from the country, taking with him an eye-popping $2 billion worth of users' cryptocurrency holdings. At the time, Özer denied any allegations of conducting an exit scam.

Crypto's Rising Popularity in Turkey

This comes months after KuCoin's crypto report reveals that crypto investors among Turkish adults increased by 12% over the past 18 months, rising from 40% to 52%. This indicates growing interest and acceptance of crypto in Turkey, likely driven by younger generations and stable adoption across age groups. The report provided valuable insights into the expanding crypto ecosystem in Turkey.

Highlights of KuCoin's crypto report. Source: KuCoin

The recent fraud case involving Thodex crypto exchange founder Faruk Fatih Özer could prompt tighter regulation and make purchasing cryptocurrencies more difficult for Turkish youth in the future. The Özer situation may undermine trust in crypto and motivate authorities to impose stricter controls, despite crypto's appeal as a tool for financial security and independence.

A High-Stakes Capture and Extradition

Özer's flight from justice did not go unnoticed or unpunished. After several months on the run, he was eventually apprehended in Albania in August 2022, where he was already serving a jail sentence for unrelated offenses. His past caught up to him when, in April of this year, he was extradited to Turkey to answer for fraud and money laundering crimes he had allegedly committed.

Özer had already been incarcerated for failure to submit required tax documents since July, adding a layer to his already complex legal predicament. The most recent conviction now centers on the massive fraud committed against Thodex's unsuspecting customers.

Özer's Defense: A Tale of Injustice

In the courtroom, Faruk Fatih Özer passionately defended himself and his family against the accusations, strongly proclaiming that they were not guilty. He contended that Thodex was merely a cryptocurrency company that had fallen victim to financial mismanagement and had no criminal intent.

Özer's statements in court, when translated to English, read, "I am smart enough to manage all institutions in the world. This is evident from the company I founded at the age of 22. If I were to establish a criminal organization, I would not act so amateurishly. What is in question is it is clear that the suspects in the file have been victims for more than 2 years."

Thodex Echoes the FTX Scandal

Many have compared the collapse of the Thodex exchange in 2021 to the recent fall of FTX. Both platforms were massively popular before suddenly crumbling amid accusations of fraud and misappropriation of customer assets. Just as Thodex's demise shattered trust and sparked panic selling in Turkey's crypto scene, FTX's bankruptcy has sent shockwaves through the global digital asset market.

These twin cases underscore the need for stronger consumer protections and clearer regulations in the cryptocurrency industry to prevent such catastrophic betrayals of users' faith in the future. While Thodex was more localized, FTX was one of the largest global exchanges, so the scale of its failure may ultimately have even more far-reaching repercussions.

The Broader Implications

The shocking downfall of Thodex and the subsequent sentencing of its CEO and key personnel have raised crucial questions about the regulation and oversight of the cryptocurrency industry in Turkey and around the world. This case serves as a stark reminder of the risks associated with unregulated digital asset platforms and the importance of investor protection.

As legal proceedings continue and more details emerge, the Thodex case will undoubtedly continue to be a focal point for both the crypto community and the broader financial industry. It is a cautionary tale that underscores the need for increased vigilance and accountability in the ever-evolving world of cryptocurrencies.