Turkey detains dozens for alleged cryptocurrency fraud

ISTANBUL (AP) — Turkish police have detained 62 people as part of an investigation into a cryptocurrency exchange that is being accused of defrauding investors, according to the country’s state-run news agency.

Anadolu news agency said Friday prosecutors issued detention warrants for 16 more people linked to the Thodex cryptocurrency exchange and said the detentions took place in eight provinces.

On Thursday, Istanbul’s chief prosecutor’s office announced it was probing Thodex following complaints from users who could not access their assets. It is thought to have affected some 391,000 investors and an estimated $2 billion in investments.

Thodex owner Faruk Fatih Ozer denied the allegations in a statement on Twitter and said the company was being targeted by a smear campaign. He said the company temporarily shut down trading after accounts showed unusual activity due to a cyberattack. Ozer also said the claims that the money had disappeared were untrue.

The justice ministry said it was seeking Ozer’s extradition from Albania, according to Anadolu, after Turkish media reports said he had left the country earlier this week. Ozer confirmed he was abroad but claimed the trip was to meet foreign investors.

Last week, Turkey’s central bank announced that it was banning the use of cryptocurrencies for the payment for goods, arguing that 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.