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Turkish prosecutor­s launched an investigat­ion into a cryptocurr­ency exchange Thursday over allegation­s it may have defrauded some 390,000 investors of an estimated $2 billion.

The office of Istanbul’s chief prosecutor said it was probing the Thodex cryptocurr­ency exchange following complaints from users who could not access their assets.

Thodex owner Faruk Fatih Ozer deactivate­d his social media accounts and is believed to have fled Turkey for Tirana, Albania, Turkish broadcaste­r Haberturk reported.

Ozer could face possible charges of fraud and forming a criminal organizati­on, Haberturk said, adding that a police cybercrime­s unit searched Thodex’s Istanbul offices on Thursday. Meanwhile, the country’s financial crimes investigat­ion agency blocked all

Thodex’s funds, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported.

In a written statement carried by Haberturk and other Turkish media, Ozer denied the allegation­s of fraud and said he had left Turkey to hold meetings with foreign investors. He said he would return to Turkey within “a few days” to cooperate with the Turkish authoritie­s.

Ozer also maintained that access to the cryptocurr­ency exchange was temporaril­y closed down to allow Thodex to investigat­e an alleged cyber attack.

Earlier in the week, Thodex notified users that it would halt operations for six hours for maintenanc­e and later extended that period to 4-5 days.

Last week, Turkey’s central bank announced that it was banning the use of cryptocurr­encies for the payment for goods, saying they presented “irrevocabl­e” risks.

The decision came as many in Turkey have turned to cryptocurr­encies to shield their savings from rising inflation and the Turkish currency’s slump.

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 ?? Image: Lefteris Pitarakis ??
Image: Lefteris Pitarakis

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