An accused cryptocurrency crook said to have swindled USD 2 billion from investors has been seized after 16 months on the run.
Albanian police are reported to have arrested Turkish businessman Faruk Fatih Ozer – wanted by Interpol – in a raid codenamed ‘Brain’.
Turkish interior ministry officials announced the arrest on 30th August and said they plan to extradite Ozer, 28, to face justice in Turkey.
Albanian police said Ozer had been seized in the resort area Vlora along with two local aides.
An Albanian police statement said: “After many searches in several regions of the country, based on the information received on the operative route about the location of a person highly wanted by Turkish justice, Operation ‘Brain’ was organised and finalised.
“As part of this operation, Turkish citizen F.O., 28 years old, was arrested and detained.”
Ozer’s identity was reportedly confirmed by biometric results.
Police also reportedly seized laptops, mobile devices and bank cards.
Ozer is the founder of the collapsed crypto money exchange Thodex and had been missing since April last year when Interpol put him under a red notice.
He is accused of running off with USD 2 billion in investors’ assets, though he has repeatedly denied the accusations via social media.
Thodex described itself as Turkey’s first globally recognized crypto exchange platform.
Baby-faced Ozer became an international spokesman for crypto dealing and investment.
Thodex lured investors through glamorous TV ads and social media campaigns using celebrities and economists to give the deals glamour and credibility.
The firm had been running daily crypto trade worth hundreds of millions of dollars when Turkish authorities raided it last year.
It collapsed after one deal that seemed too good to be true was just that and started a run on the exchange.
Ozer fled but six suspects – including company executives and Ozer’s brother and sister – were arrested and later jailed.
Turkey’s interior ministry said: “The procedures for the extradition of Faruk Fatih Ozer to Turkey have been started by the Interpol Department of the General Directorate going of Security.”
Supporters had claimed that Thodex’s fall was caused by a volatile market, not fraud.
But Turkish authorities later banned the use of crypto assets for payments.
A local boom in the use of digital currencies in Turkey was fuelled by rising inflation and a slide in the lira currency, say experts.