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Court arrests Farm Bank founder accused of defrauding gamers

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Mehmet Aydın, who allegedly defrauded thousands of Turks of millions of dollars by way of an online investment app and was brought to Turkey from Brazil where he surrendered to authorities, has been arrested, according to Turkish media outlets.

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. He was brought to Turkey on Saturday and was referred to an İstanbul court for arrest on Wednesday morning following a four-day interrogation.

Aydın and his business partners came up with the game in 2016, known as Çiftlik Bank (Farm Bank) in Turkish, inspired by popular social media game FarmVille. Users would buy virtual animals and farm equipment with real money. Aydın promised users their money would be invested in real livestock on various farms across the country. Products were also put up for sale in some stores and on “show-farms” to woo investors. Users would be paid for time spent playing the game.

In his deposition, however, Aydın denied having promised money to investors, saying they would only be given their capital and would have no investment in real farms.

“I don’t accept the claim that I established a fraud gang and defrauded people. I explained everything honestly. I did not set up this business to defraud people. I made some mistakes, I met some of the wrong people. So I was wronged like the people in the Farm Bank game. Since I didn’t commit the crimes I’m accused of, I want to benefit from the active repentance law,” Aydın said in his deposition, according to Turkish media outlets.

Aydın also said his assets, which are valued at around TL 200,000 million ($23 million), could be used to make up for the losses people suffered as a result of his investment app, saying the financial losses total some TL 64 million ($7.5 million) according to what he learned from the Turkish media.

Aydın also said he established firms in various countries during the time he was abroad.

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.”

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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