He Emptied an Entire Crypto Exchange Onto a Thumb Drive. Then He Disappeared


He advised the court docket that he grew his beard right down to his clavicle, shaved his head. He stated that when he discovered in regards to the prosecutor’s indictment—that his brother and sister had been charged with fraud, that they might stand trial in a month, and that with out Özer they might most probably take the blame for Thodex’s fall and spend the remainder of their lives in jail—he had a wild concept: If each claimant had been paid again, did a criminal offense ever actually occur? He did, the truth is, have the Thodex chilly pockets on him, he advised the judges, although he claims to not bear in mind how a lot was in it. He requested Erarslan to assist him pay again the roughly 2,000 plaintiffs who had misplaced their cash.

And so they did, partly. In complete, whereas on the run, he paid roughly 185 million lira ($10 million on the time) to greater than 1,000 claimants. As Özer tells it, when the chilly pockets was empty, he threw it into the Ionian Sea.

When he addressed his use of different folks’s accounts to commerce crypto—an motion on the middle of the case—he began to sound defiant and slightly condescending: “Startup founders take all tasks, as the character of startups requires,” he stated. He underscored that they’d no authority within the firm and no entry to those accounts. “There is no such thing as a lawlessness or irregularity. Furthermore, I’m neither the primary nor the final nor the one individual to arbitrage the cryptocurrency market.”

Close to the top of his tackle, Özer’s frustrations appeared to show to bitterness and hubris. He confronted the judges and stated it was “absurd to assume that the IQ degree of the one who made such a silly escape plan” was the identical as that of a felony mastermind allegedly able to deceiving Turkish monetary regulators for 4 years. “I’m sensible sufficient to steer any establishment on earth,” Özer stated. Then he had Erarslan pull up a picture of a cartoon mocking the court docket. Visibly irritated, the chief decide ordered him to take away it.

The decision got here quietly on a balmy Thursday in September 2023 to an nearly empty courtroom. Özer stood and solemnly learn the lyrics from a Turkish folks track, “The Finish of the Street Is Seen.”

The chief decide handed Güven, Serap, and Özer the identical sentence: 11,196 years in jail—for establishing and managing a felony group and laundering belongings. A lot of the different defendants had been launched. It was the longest sentence in Turkey’s historical past, handed out the month earlier than the Republic’s centennial.

Faruk Fatih Özer grew to become a poster little one of crypto crimes, however he additionally grew to become an unintentional illustration of a specific financial period—and the lengths folks will undergo to flee it. To the Turkish regime, he was not a lot an opponent as an unlucky product of flawed financial insurance policies. In that mild, the draconian sentence is punishment not just for a criminal offense but in addition for shining a highlight on many years of embarrassing failures, ones that had been made clear to the complete nation the day that Özer disappeared.

So maybe it’s no shock that Turkey stays a haven for cryptocurrencies. Within the 12 months after Thodex went bust, inflation within the nation hit a 24-year high of 85.5 p.c. Costs for items almost doubled—and so did the proportion of Turks who owned bitcoin, ether, and different currencies. By way of commerce quantity, the nation ranks fourth globally, behind the US, the UK, and India. After many years of watching their foreign money devalue, their companies and nest eggs get scrambled, the Turkish folks aren’t going to move up the dream so simply. Earlier this 12 months, the nation’s finance minister stated the federal government was working to finalize new regulations on crypto, “to make this discipline safer and to remove potential dangers.” So though Özer picked a combat with an authoritarian regime and misplaced—whether or not as a result of he believed too totally within the gospel of decentralization, as a result of he was a naive child, as a result of he was a cynical hustler, or some mixture of all three—the flames of financial revolution that he helped fan aren’t going out anytime quickly.

Jenna Scatena is an impartial journalist from San Francisco who’s presently primarily based in Istanbul.

Extra reporting by Beril Eski, Gülşah Karadağ, and Vladimir Karaj.

Tell us what you consider this text. Submit a letter to the editor at mail@wired.com.

Source link