The founder of the Turkish cryptocurrency exchange Thodex disappeared with $ 2.6 billion. Image: Shutterstock

The founder of the Turkish cryptocurrency exchange Thodex fled the country with investing assets of around $ 2.6 billion after the exchange abruptly stopped transactions last week.

According to local reports, Faruk Fatih Özer was last officially seen at Istanbul Airport and is said to be on the run in Albania.

Interpol published a red notice of his arrest at the request of Turkish law enforcement agencies.

Özer’s Thodex cryptocurrency exchange went offline last week, leaving around 390,000 active users with no access to their cryptocurrency wallets.

In a statement, Özer denied any allegations of wrongdoing, saying that he only left the country to meet with foreign investors.

“[Thodex] has attracted the attention of many domestic and foreign investors and has received very serious partnership offers on an international level, ”said Özer.

“When the financial and digital data were examined together during the partnership negotiations that had been going on for about three months, it was discovered last week that there were unusual fluctuations in the company accounts.

“The Thodex platform has been temporarily closed to determine the reasons and sources for it.”

Özer said some suspicious account activity could be traced back to a cyberattack and only affected 30,000 users – not the 390,000 reported.

Signs of anger

Last month, when the price of Dogecoin began to rise, Thodex announced that it would be giving away millions of the meme cryptocurrency to new users to attract more customers.

But just a few days after the end of Thodex’s month-long Dogecoin campaign, the exchange blocked the withdrawal of the crypto asset while “short-term maintenance work on Dogecoin transactions” was carried out.

Soon the same maintenance work was rolled out across the platform and users started complaining about their currency. They no longer seemed able to withdraw.

“We kindly inform you that the negative news on the Internet is not true and that our company is doing more business,” said Thodex.

“There is no need to worry about our users’ existence.”

After raids across the country, Istanbul police arrested 68 people in search of 80 suspects involved in the alleged fraud, according to Turkish state news agency Anadolu.

The Turkish crypto market goes bankrupt

The Thodex collapse began a week after Turkey’s central bank announced that it would ban the use of cryptocurrencies as a means of payment from April 30.

The central bank cited issues such as lack of regulation, market volatility and anonymity as reasons for banning the use of crypto assets for payments, saying it could cause “non-recoverable losses” for those who use crypto to combat the effects of inflation , which reached 16.5 percent in March.

Vebitcoin, another Turkish cryptocurrency exchange, suddenly ceased trading over the weekend, saying its transactions have “become much more intense than expected” lately.

“We regret to note that this situation has led us to a very difficult process in finance,” said Vebitcoin.

“We have decided to stop our activities in order to meet all regulations and requirements.”

Turkey’s cryptocurrency calculation coincided with a drop in the price of Bitcoin, which has steadily dropped from $ 83,000 per Bitcoin two weeks ago to below $ 70,000.

Cryptocurrencies saw a resurgence this year with the advent of NFTs in the art world and new altcoins on the Binance smart chain like Safemoon, tempting people to put money into highly speculative tokens in hopes of making a quick fortune.