A cryptocurrency exchange in Turkey suspended operations this week amid accusations of fraud, freezing an estimated $2 billion in investors’ money, and authorities said they were seeking the company’s founder.
The Turkish authorities raided offices in Istanbul associated with Thodex, a cryptocurrency trading platform, on Friday morning and arrested more than 60 people, the private news agency Demiroren reported.
Thodex’s 27-year-old founder, Faruk Fatih Ozer, left Turkey for Albania on Tuesday, the Turkish authorities said, who added that they were seeking his extradition.
The cryptocurrency firm has nearly 400,000 active users, whose accounts were nominally worth a total of $2 billion, according to Oguz Evren Kilic, a lawyer in Ankara who is representing Thodex investors. If their money has vanished, the losses will add another element of instability to Turkey’s already shaky economy.
banned the use of cryptocurrencies for purchases, citing the “significant risks.”
Thodex promoted itself with ads that featured female Turkish celebrities dressed in bright red outfits and draped over a highly polished black automobile.
“For sure the economic situation has an affect on this,” Mr. Kilic, the lawyer, said in an interview. “In such times of crisis, people want to diminish the loss of value of the assets they have.”
The sagging lira has raised the cost of imported goods and fueled inflation, leading to a steady erosion in living standards. In March, the annual rate of inflation was 16 percent, according to official figures, which many economists say understate the true rate.