According to state media, Turkish authorities arrested sixty-two people on Friday for alleged links to an Istanbul-based cryptocurrency exchange after its founder fled with a reported $2 billion in investors’ assets.
The Anadolu news agency said the suspects were arrested in raids in eight cities, including Istanbul. Police have issued arrest warrants for another 16 people.
Immediate information about the detainees was not available.
After posting a mysterious message on Wednesday, Thodex suspended trading on the exchange, saying it needed five days to deal with unscheduled outside investments.
The exchange closed at least $2 billion from 391,000 investors, the report said.
Turkish security officials later released a photo of Farouk Fatih Ozar, the founder of the Thodex, through passport control at Istanbul airport on his way to an undisclosed location.
He was in Albania, according to security sources quoted by Habertork television.
Investors’ lawyer Oguz Evren Kilic told AFP on Thursday that millions of users were unable to access their digital wallets.
“We have started the legal process and have lodged a complaint with the prosecutor’s office,” he said.
Prosecutors were investigating the businessman on charges of “extreme fraud and establishing a criminal organization.”
Police raided the company’s headquarters on the Asian side of Istanbul and seized computers and digital content, a press report said.
In a message on the agency’s Twitter account, Ozar said he was abroad for a meeting with foreign investors and would “return to the country in a few days and cooperate with the judicial authorities so that the truth can be revealed”.
Growing number of Turks are turning to cryptocurrencies to protect their savings in the face of sharp decline in the value of the Turkish lira and high inflation
Turkey’s crypto market remains uncontrollable despite growing skepticism about the security of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government.