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Fugitive Turkish investment app founder brought to Turkey

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Mehmet Aydın, who allegedly defrauded thousands of Turks of millions of dollars by way of an online investment app and had recently surrendered to authorities in Brazil, was brought to Turkey over the weekend and is currently in police custody, according to Turkish media outlets.

The plane carrying Aydın, 30, landed at İstanbul Airport late on Saturday, and Aydın was taken out of the airport in handcuffs in the early hours of Sunday to the İstanbul Police Department’s financial crimes unit.

He will be kept in police custody for four days, according to media reports.

Aydın, who had surrendered to Turkey’s Consulate General in Sao Paulo, Brazil, was handed over to a three-person INTERPOL team who flew to Sao Paulo.

The Anadolu Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office in İstanbul said in a statement that two cases were launched against Aydın and other suspects on various charges and that an investigation into the other suspects who have not been apprehended or against whom evidence has not yet been collected was underway.

“The suspect Mehmet Aydın, who was the leader of the [company] under investigation and whose extradition had been requested from Brazilian judicial authorities with a warrant dated May 31, 2018 was apprehended in the said country and handed over to Turkish authorities on July 3, 2021,” the statement said.

Meanwhile, Aydın was reported by Turkish media as saying in his testimony that he had decided to surrender upon pressure from his family, which his lawyer Fatih Kuş denied, saying that Aydın has not yet given any statement to the police.

Kuş refused to comment on the claim that Aydın had a list of the people who had been defrauded in the scheme and whom he intends to compensate as well as a list of monies due to him, which he handed over to the authorities during the preliminary interview at the airport.

Aydın is expected to appear in court this weekend, Turkish media reports said.

Çiftlik Bank (Farm Bank) founder Aydın surrendered after declaring his intention to turn himself in to Turkish authorities in a video posted via his lawyers on Wednesday, in which he claimed he had been wronged in the process and that he had finally decided to surrender to judicial authorities.

“When I first launched this project, my goal was to ensure that people who use our game platform would play games and at the same time benefit from the money our company allocates to advertising, thereby earning an additional income. I never intended to cause any damage to or swindle anyone,” Aydın said in the video.

Aydın added that he would surrender to the Turkish authorities “to prove his innocence and victimization,” expressing trust in the Turkish courts to make the correct judgment.

In 2019 INTERPOL had issued a Red Notice for Aydın, wanted by Turkish authorities on charges of “theft by deception by using as an instrument electronic data processing systems, bank or lending institutions,” “theft by deception of the executives of a merchant or a company or of the executives of a cooperative,” “establishing an organization for the purpose of committing crimes,” “laundering of assets acquired from an offense” and “violation of the tax law.”

In August 2016 Aydın established Çiftlik Bank, a company based in northern Cyprus that offers an online video game where users can purchase and raise farm animals, with the promise that the funds would be used for production on real farms to be established across Turkey.

An investigation launched in March 2018 based on allegations that the company operated a Ponzi scheme had led to the seizure of its assets and the arrest of some of its executives.

It was later claimed that Aydın fled to Uruguay in 2018 with more than 1.1 billion Turkish lira (around $280 million according to the exchange rate in effect at the time) collected from some 132,000 customers.

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