Turkey begins manhunt for CEO of collapsed crypto exchange

Faruk Fatih Ozer's Thodex was part of the cryptocurrency boom that has drawn in many seeking to protect their savings. PHOTO: AFP

ANKARA (BLOOMBERG) - Turkey launched an international manhunt for the founder of one of its major cryptocurrency exchanges after he stopped paying clients and fled the country.

The Justice Ministry is seeking a so-called red notice under which Interpol would help find, provisionally arrest and return Thodex chief executive Faruk Fatih Ozer from Albania to Turkey, state-run Anadolu Agency reported on Friday (April 23).

Turkish police have detained 62 people in eight cities including Istanbul, where Thodex was based, while 16 others remain at large, it said.

In a statement from an unknown location on Thursday, Mr Ozer promised to repay investors and to return to Turkey to face justice at a later date. The government moved to block the company's accounts and police raided its head office in Istanbul.

Losses could be as high as US$2 billion (S$2.66 billion), according to Haberturk newspaper, and a lawyer for the victims said the money invested by about 390,000 active users had become "irretrievable".

Both figures have been disputed by Mr Ozer.

About 30,000 users have been affected, he said in a statement on the company's website on Thursday.

Thodex was part of the cryptocurrency boom that has drawn in many Turks seeking to protect their savings from rampant inflation and an unstable currency.

Inflation hit 16.2 per cent in March, more than three times the central bank's target of 5 per cent. The Turkish lira has weakened 10 per cent against the dollar this year, its ninth consecutive year of losses.

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