The Thodex exchange suspended trading after posting a mysterious message on Wednesday saying it needed five days to deal with an unspecified outside investment. Hundreds of thousands of users of a Turkish cryptocurrency exchange, Thodex, have been left unable to access their digital assets after the trading platform abruptly halted trading, spurring fraud allegations and thousands of criminal complaints.
The message said,
“Services will remain closed for about five working days while the share transfer is completed, but users needn’t worry about their investments,”
But users who have not been able to withdraw their money or access their accounts took to Twitter to voice concern that they may have been scammed.
Turkish prosecutors on Thursday launched an investigation after the Istanbul-based founder of a cryptocurrency exchange froze trading and fled the country with a reported $2 billion in investors’ assets.
Turkish security officials then released a photo of Thodex founder Faruk Fatih Ozer going through passport control at Istanbul airport on his way to an unspecified location. Local media reports said Ozer, reported to be 27 or 28 years old, had flown either to Albania or Thailand with an alleged $2 Bn from around 391,000 investors.
Police also arrested 62 people in simultaneous dawn raids in eight Turkish cities over alleged connections to Mr Ozer’s company, Thodex.
Ozer called the allegations against him “baseless” and said he is in Albania for work meetings.
The Turkish justice ministry has begun legal proceedings to seek the arrest and extradition of Mr Ozer from the Albanian capital Tirana, Andalou reported, adding that Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu had spoken to his Albanian counterpart on the phone.
Interpol has issued a red notice for Mr Ozer on Friday after receiving a request from Ankara.
Increasing numbers of Turkish people are opting to use cryptocurrencies in an attempt to protect their savings from a sharp decline in the value of the local currency, the lira. But the Turkish cryptocurrency market is unregulated.
Last week, Turkey said it would ban the use of cryptocurrencies to pay for goods and services from 30 April.