Thousands fall victim to $2bn Turkish cryptocurrency fraud

Thousands fall victim to $2bn Turkish cryptocurrency fraud
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A screen grab from CCTV footage, released on April 22, 2021, shows Thodex founder Faruk Fatih Ozer at passport control in Istanbul international airport. (AFP)
Thousands fall victim to $2bn Turkish cryptocurrency fraud
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Turkish police have issued an international arrest warrant for Faruk Fatih Ozer, the founder of cryptocurrency exchange Thodex, who fled with a reported $2bn in investors’ assets. (AFP)
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Updated 23 April 2021

Thousands fall victim to $2bn Turkish cryptocurrency fraud

Thousands fall victim to $2bn Turkish cryptocurrency fraud
  • The founder of cryptocurrency exchange Thodex, Faruk Fatih Ozer, fled the country with about $2 billion, leaving more than 391,000 users defrauded
  • The fraud case coincided with an overnight decision by the Central Bank of Turkey to ban the use of digital currencies and assets to pay for goods and services from April 30

ANKARA: Turkey’s cryptocurrency market has seen its first large-scale fraud case after the founder of cryptocurrency exchange Thodex, Faruk Fatih Ozer, fled the country with about $2 billion, leaving more than 391,000 users defrauded.

Ozer reportedly escaped to Albania.

In collaboration with Turkish authorities, Interpol has issued a red notice for the fugitive wanted for prosecution.

Although an investigation was launched into the company whose accounts were blocked by the financial crimes investigation board MASAK on April 21, the scheme revealed loopholes in the system.

The company has operated since 2017. It recently shut down services for several days, saying that it will allow outside investment from “prestigious banks and funding companies” in order to serve partners.

However, shortly after the statement, users began facing problems with money transfers before the site became inaccessible.

The daily volume of cryptocurrency trading in Turkey is believed to be about $1-$2 billion.

The fraud case is the largest in Turkish history, and coincided with an overnight decision by the Central Bank of Turkey to ban the use of digital currencies and assets to pay for goods and services from April 30.

Among other decisions, the central bank also targeted people and companies that fund illegal activities or facilitate money laundering through cryptocurrencies.

The Thodex founder was previously photographed in a meeting with several top Turkish policymakers.

According to a report by the World Economic Forum, Turkey ranked fourth among the 74 largest economies in the world and first in Europe for cryptocurrency adoption by the population.

“Thodex, as a cryptocurrency trading platform, is just another company in Turkey, and there are no laws for this kind of setup,” Fatih Guner, an expert on the cryptocurrency market, told Arab News.

Recent polls revealed that between 16 and 20 percent of Turks used or owned cryptocurrencies last year.

“The adoption is high, but the literacy is not that high. And the lack of literacy is crucial for cryptocurrency trading platforms because these platforms only make money if people buy and sell coins on their platforms. Exchanges from all over the world are investing in PR and dark marketing to gain new amateur traders, with influencers, YouTube creators, newsletter writers and Twitter trolls,” Guner said.

According to Guner, influencers work with exchanges to encourage inexperienced investors with false claims of profit.

“Turkey is a haven for coin exchanges because of the lack of legislation. The government has to step up and legislate heavily,” he said.

“In recent years, we saw that Turkish people heavily indulged in the lottery, football bets and all kinds of lawful gambling. The government seems to see exchanges as some other kind of gambling and loosely controls them to keep people busy while they live on the edge of poverty. Turkey’s cryptocurrency adoption rate is fourth in the world after Nigeria, Vietnam and the Philippines. The economic resemblance is uncanny,” Guner added.

Experts have long urged the government to take tougher measures to deal with criminals who defraud amateur cryptocurrency investors.

In March, a man in the southern Turkish city of Antalya killed his two children and wife before committing suicide after losing a large sum of money in Bitcoin investments.


Egypt allocates $500m to rebuild Gaza

Egypt allocates $500m to rebuild Gaza
Updated 49 min 51 sec ago

Egypt allocates $500m to rebuild Gaza

Egypt allocates $500m to rebuild Gaza
  • El-Sisi has ordered the government to coordinate with Palestinians in Gaza

CAIRO: Egypt is allocating $500 million for reconstruction efforts in the Gaza Strip following Israeli airstrikes, with President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi saying that specialist Egyptian firms would contribute to the rebuilding efforts.

“We will work to solve the crisis,” El-Sisi said on the sidelines of a conference in Paris. “There is hope for collective action to end the conflict.”

El-Sisi has ordered the government to coordinate with Palestinians in Gaza to find out what their needs are and fulfill them.

Egypt has opened the Rafah crossing through which travelers, students and those wishing to receive medical treatment have begun arriving.

Egypt is leading mediation efforts to reach a ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinians.


UAE says it will offer Sinopharm booster shot

UAE says it will offer Sinopharm booster shot
Updated 18 May 2021

UAE says it will offer Sinopharm booster shot

UAE says it will offer Sinopharm booster shot
  • The move is part of the UAE's "proactive strategy to provide maximum protection for society”
  • The country of some 9 million has vaccinated around 73% of the eligible population

DUBAI: The United Arab Emirates said on Tuesday it would offer a booster shot of the COVID-19 vaccine from China’s state-owned drug-maker Sinopharm for those who have already received two doses.
The move is part of the UAE’s “proactive strategy to provide maximum protection for society,” the National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority (NCEMA) said, with priority given to those aged above 60 or suffering a chronic disease.
The country of some 9 million has vaccinated around 73 percent of the eligible population, NCEMA said. The UAE is providing four vaccines for free but does not provide a breakdown for each one.
The UAE, a regional business and tourism hub, on Tuesday reported 1,270 new coronavirus infections to take the total to 548,681 cases with 1,637 deaths.
The World Health Organization, which last week approved Sinopharm for emergency use, has said a large Phase III trial of Sinopharm had shown that two doses, administered at an interval of 21 days, have an efficacy of 79 percent against symptomatic infection, 14 or more days after the second dose.
The UAE has started manufacturing the Chinese vaccine under a joint venture between Sinopharm and Abu Dhabi-based technology company Group 42.


Relentless Israeli bombing campaign keeps Gazans on tenterhooks

Relentless Israeli bombing campaign keeps Gazans on tenterhooks
Israeli soldiers work at an artillery unit as it fires near the border between Israel and the Gaza strip, on the Israeli side May 17, 2021. (REUTERS)
Updated 47 min 12 sec ago

Relentless Israeli bombing campaign keeps Gazans on tenterhooks

Relentless Israeli bombing campaign keeps Gazans on tenterhooks
  • Israeli warplanes continued to strike various areas in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, including houses, agricultural plots and border areas

GAZA CITY: Heavy Israeli airstrikes claimed more lives in Gaza on Tuesday as tensions flared during Palestinian “day of anger” protests in Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank.

According to Gaza’s Health Ministry, Israel’s intense bombing campaign has killed 213 Palestinians, including 61 children, 36 women and 16 elderly.

Israeli munitions have wounded more than 1,400 people in Gaza during recent clashes with Hamas.

“I fear the night more than any other time, even if it is calm, I feel terrified as soon as the night starts,” said Hadyya Al-Sirsawi, a Gaza resident.

“The sounds of the bombing at night are very frightening. There is a continuous bombing, and it does not stop for a long time. My body shivers with the sound of everything, even if it is not bombing.” Al-Sirsawi, 32, a mother of three, Arab News.

In the night raids, 42 Palestinians died on Al-Wehda Street on Sunday.

Al-Sirsawi is afraid that she and her family will join the dead under the rubble, and that the Ministry of Health will list them as another statistic. “The ministry does not even mention names, we will be a number like others.”

She added: “I try hard every night to put my children to bed so that they sleep early, missing the frightening sounds of the constant nightly bombardment. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes they do not sleep, and sometimes they wake up to the sounds of bombing.”

Israeli warplanes continued to strike various areas in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, including houses, agricultural plots and border areas.

The government media office in Gaza said that the damage to the strip has so far amounted to $243 million.

War is especially galling for children, even after its conclusion. “I try to keep my children busy all the time so that they are not psychologically affected by the bombing going on around them,” said Rawya Humaid, 38, a mother of two.

“During the daytime, we can withstand the sounds of the bombing, but the silence of the night makes the sounds more terrifying for me and my children,” Humaid told Arab News, adding: “I can’t sleep at night, I stay awake. In the early hours of the morning, I fell asleep for a few hours.”

During the night, Humaid keeps herself busy by watching the news, checking her Instagram account on her mobile, or chatting with her friends and relatives over WhatsApp.

Despite Arab and international efforts to end the war and return to the ceasefire agreement, Gazans do not expect a conclusion soon.

Humaid said: “I hear about the news when talking about the calm, but what we are witnessing, hearing and living is horror. There is no calm yet on the ground, which is the most important.

“There will be a ceasefire at any time. This will not last forever, but the pain, sadness and destruction will remain in the Gaza Strip. We will need years to restore our health and our psyche.”


Egypt sends medicines to Gaza, prepares hospitals for Palestinians

Egypt sends medicines to Gaza, prepares hospitals for Palestinians
Palestinians use a water tanker to try to extinguish a fire at a paint factory after it was hit by an Israeli airstrike, in Rafah, Gaza Strip, Tuesday, May 18, 2021. (AP)
Updated 32 min 44 sec ago

Egypt sends medicines to Gaza, prepares hospitals for Palestinians

Egypt sends medicines to Gaza, prepares hospitals for Palestinians
  • Israel launched its campaign on the Gaza Strip on May 10 following unrest in East Jerusalem

CAIRO: Egypt has sent 65 tons of medical aid to the Gaza Strip after a week of Israeli strikes left more than 200 Palestinians dead and hundreds more injured, health officials have said.

With hospitals in Gaza overwhelmed by patients, the critical surgical supplies include specialist burn treatments as well as “ventilators, oxygen tanks and syringes,” Health Minister Hala Zayed said on Monday.

She said that the medicine and medical supplies are worth about 14 million Egyptian pounds ($900,000).

Sources said that 26 trucks containing food items have also been sent to Gaza, on top of 50 ambulances to transport the wounded. Egypt also said that it will provide 11 field hospitals containing more than 900 beds.

The shipment includes anesthesia medicines, antibiotics, analgesics, medicines, ointments for burns, and medicines for blood pressure, diabetes, kidneys, chronic and chest diseases.

Khaled Mujahid, health ministry spokesman, said that cooperation between regional blood banks in the North Sinai and Ismailia governorates, and the Egyptian Blood Transfusion Service in Cairo, will supply Palestinian hospitals with urgent supplies of blood as needed.

He added that the hospitals of Bir Al-Abd, Al-Arish and Sheikh Zuweid in North Sinai — with a total capacity of 288 general beds, 81 intensive care beds, 233 doctors and 44 ventilators — are ready to receive injured Palestinians through the Rafah crossing.

Mujahid said that medical reinforcements have been sent to the three hospitals that will remain for three months, adding that the facilities are supported by 37 medical teams covering emergency and intensive care, and anesthesia, heart, brain, nerve, bone and vascular surgery.

He said that the Ismailia Medical Complex and Abu Khalifa Emergency Hospital in the Ismailia Governorate are also offering 385 general beds, 85 intensive care beds, and 1,145 doctors and nurses, and will receive patients from Palestine that require urgent medical treatment.

A central operations room has been set up at the Ministry of Health to follow up on medical services to Palestine, and to communicate between various sectors of the ministry and governorates, Mujahid added.

Israel launched its campaign on the Gaza Strip on May 10 following unrest in East Jerusalem.

The Hamas-run local health ministry said that Israeli airstrikes have killed 213 Palestinians, including 61 children, and wounded more than 1,400 people in Gaza.

Jens Laerke, a spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said that almost 47,000 Palestinians have fled their homes during the airstrike campaign, The Associated Press reported.

Airstrikes have also destroyed the sole COVID-19 testing laboratory in Gaza, the local health ministry said.

 


Fuel price hike sparks deadly Syria Kurd protests

Fuel price hike sparks deadly Syria Kurd protests
Updated 18 May 2021

Fuel price hike sparks deadly Syria Kurd protests

Fuel price hike sparks deadly Syria Kurd protests
  • Kurdish administration that oversees large swathes of Syria's northeast said Monday it was doubling and tripling the cost of fuel
  • Clashes broke out when protesters and gunmen stormed a base in Shadadi belonging to Kurdish security forces

QAMISHLI: A decision to hike fuel prices sparked protests across Kurdish-held parts of northeastern Syria on Tuesday that turned violent and left at least one demonstrator dead, a monitor said.
The Kurdish administration, which oversees large swathes of Syria’s northeast, said on Monday that it was doubling and in some cases tripling the cost of fuel.
On Tuesday, dozens of people took to the streets in the city of Qamishli and other areas calling on the authorities to reverse the price hike, AFP correspondents reported.
Clashes broke out when protesters and gunmen stormed a base in the town of Shadadi belonging to Kurdish security forces, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
One protester was killed and five others were wounded in the exchange of fire, said the Britain-based monitor.
The price hike saw the cost of diesel climb to 400 Syrian pounds (30 US cents at the official exchange rate) per liter from 150 and petrol to 410 pounds per liter from 210.
Cannisters of gas used in homes are now selling for 8,000 pounds, up from 2,500.
The price hikes come on top of an accelerating economic crisis that has weakened the value of the pound and plunged wide segments of Syria’s population into poverty.
“The Kurdish administration was forced to raise prices because the previous ones didn’t cover the cost of production,” said Sadiq Al-Khalaf, a Kurdish administration official.
Kurds control some of Syria’s largest gas and oil fields but authorities are not producing enough oil and gas to meet the demand.
Heating fuel, petrol and cooking gas have been in short supply in recent months and motorists have grown used to waiting in long queues to fill up.
Regional authorities have not explained the reason behind the shortage.
Amid protests, regime loyalists in the city of Hassakeh — parts of which are controlled by government forces — attacked a Kurdish security forces position, according to the Observatory.
Three people were injured, it said.
The Kurdish Asayish security forces released a statement condemning attempts to exploit peaceful demonstrations by “attacking military and civilian” infrastructure.
“It is creating a state of chaos,” the Asayish said.
Syria used to produce almost 400,000 barrels of oil per day before its civil war erupted.
But 10 years of conflict have ravaged production, with oil sector’s losses estimated at $91.5 billion.