Former boss of Turkish cryptocurrency exchange Thodex, Faruk Fatih Ozer, and his two siblings have been sentenced to a staggering 11,196 years in prison each for defrauding investors of millions of dollars.
Ozer, aged 29, had absconded to Albania in 2021, when the Thodex platform suddenly collapsed. After being extradited back to Turkey in June, he was found guilty of various charges, including money laundering, fraud, and organized crime. During the trial, Ozer claimed he wouldn’t have acted in such an unprofessional manner if his intentions had been criminal, media reports said.
The court also found his sister Serap and brother Guven guilty of the same offenses. Turkish media revealed that the defendants received separate sentences for their crimes against 2,027 victims, resulting in the astronomical cumulative prison term.
After Turkey abolished the death penalty in 2004, such extraordinary sentences have become common. For instance, in 2022, TV cult preacher Adnan Oktar received an 8,658-year sentence for fraud and sex crimes, with ten of his followers handed the same punishment.
Prosecutors had initially requested a 40,562-year sentence for Ozer, according to AFP reports.
Turks had increasingly turned to cryptocurrencies as a safeguard against the dramatic depreciation of the lira, which began more than two years ago. Thodex, established in 2017, had grown to become one of the nation’s largest virtual currency exchanges.
Ozer had garnered national attention for his financial acumen and had ingratiated himself with influential pro-government figures. However, in April 2021, the platform abruptly collapsed, resulting in the disappearance of investor assets and Ozer going into hiding.
He was eventually apprehended in Albania on an Interpol warrant and returned to Turkey following an extended legal process. While initial reports suggested Ozer had absconded with assets totaling $2 billion, the prosecutor’s indictment estimated Thodex investors’ total losses at 356 million liras, which was equivalent to around $43 million at the time of the exchange’s downfall. Due to rampant inflation and the lira’s depreciation in the international markets, that amount has since dwindled to approximately $13 million.