Fugitive Turkish crypto fraud suspect arrested in Albania resort

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TIRANA, Aug 30 (Reuters) – Albanian police on Tuesday arrested the fugitive Turkish founder of Thodex, wanted by Interpol for suspected crypto fraud and on the run for a year, police and media said.

Albanian and Turkish media identified the suspect as Faruk Fatih Ozer. The Turkish Interior Ministry said authorities had launched an extradition procedure.

Police referred to the suspect only by the initials FO and said the 28-year-old was arrested in the southern resort of Himare with two Albanian assistants in an operation dubbed ‘Brain’ .

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“After numerous searches in several regions of the country, on the basis of information received on the route of the operation concerning the location of a person highly wanted by the Turkish justice (…) Operation ‘Brain’ was organized and finalized,” police said in a statement.

“As part of this operation, the 28-year-old Turkish citizen FO was arrested and detained.”

Police seized laptops, mobile devices and bank cards, the statement said.

Thodex was handling a crypto trade worth hundreds of millions of dollars on a daily basis when Turkish authorities raided it last year and six suspects, including company executives and the brother and sister of Ozer, were arrested and then imprisoned.

At Turkey’s request, Interpol had issued a red notice for Ozer, who had flown to Albania before news of the company’s troubles surfaced as the company shut down its website.

Thodex lawyer Sevgi Erarslan previously said the exchange crashed due to extreme volatility in some cryptocurrencies and a hacking attack. She said the suspicion of fraud was unrealistic.

Erarslan also said the company covered the losses of more than 800 people who lost money during the stock market crash.

Turkish authorities subsequently banned the use of crypto assets for payments while some local exchanges were investigated for fraud. There has been a boom in the use of digital currencies in Turkey, fueled by rising inflation and a falling lira.

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Reporting by Florion Goga in Tirana and Ezgi Erkoyun in Istanbul; Written by Daria Sito-Sucic; Editing by Nick Macfie

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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