Just days after major Turkish Crypto exchange Thodex collapsed, its CEO fled with a rumored $2 billion (and was reportedly detained) and dozens of people were arrested, Turkey’s cryptocurrency investors were dealt another blow as second big exchange collapsed.
In a statement posted late Friday on its website, Vebitcoin said it halted operations citing deteriorating financial conditions claiming that unspecified financial strain led to the decision — possibly caused by an unusually high number of withdrawals leading up to Turkey’s forthcoming cryptocurrency ban, according to CoinTelegraph.
“We have decided to cease our activities in order to fulfill all regulations and claims,” the announcement read in part.
Demiroren News Agency said its Chief Executive Ilker Bas and three other employees have been detained on Saturday. The Financial Crimes Investigation Board has blocked Vebitcoin’s accounts and opened a probe. Vebitcoin is - or rather was - Turkey’s fourth biggest exchange with close to $60 million in daily volumes, according to CoinGecko.com which tracks data on price, volume and market value on crypto markets. More than half of this volume came from Bitcoin, which dropped 19% this week.
On Saturday morning, Muğla chief public prosecutor Mehmet Nadir Yağcı announced in a statement to local media that four employees have been detained by law enforcement following allegations of fraud.
"Following the search and seizure operations carried out at the company headquarters and at some addresses, 4 people, who are company directors and employees, were detained. The investigation carried out by the Directorate of Cyber Crimes Branch of the Muğla Police Department is carried out in a multifaceted and meticulous manner."
The collapse of Vebitcoin comes days after Thodex halted operations and its 27-year-old founder fled to Albania. Thodex had about 390,000 users according to a lawyer for the victims and losses could be as high as $2 billion, according to Turkey’s Haberturk newspaper. Police subsequently issued upwards of 75 arrest warrants and detained 62 in connection to a possible exit scam.
This week's rout marks the worst period for Bitcoin since it tumbled amid a wider slump in risk assets at the end of February with bitcoin sliding as low as $48,000 late on Sunday, amid broader weakness in the entire crypto space.
The two exchanges were part of the cryptocurrency boom that had drawn in legions of Turks seeking to protect their savings from rampant inflation and the collapsing Turkish currency. Turkish inflation hit 16.2% in March, more than three times the central bank’s target, and the lira has weakened more than 11% against the dollar this year -- its ninth consecutive year of losses - making it the year's worst performing major currency.
The boom in Turkish crypto trading which saw daily volume on local crypto markets close to $2 billion for Friday, according to data from CoinGecko.com, regulators have come knocking. In early April, Turkey’s Central Bank has banned cryptocurrencies as a form of payment from April 30, and the country has prohibited payment and electronic money institutions from mediating money transfers to cryptocurrency platforms.
Central Bank chief Sahap Kavcioglu said more regulations are in the pipeline in a televised interview on Friday. “We are working on regulations in terms of cryptocurrency,” he said. “There are disturbing money outflows to outside of Turkey via cryptocurrencies.”
Turkey's crypto ban has become a hot-button issue, as opposition leaders have voiced support for crypto.