Turkey is gripped by the story of Mehmet Aydin, the 26-year-old founder of the Farm Bank mobile gaming app (Ciftlik Bank in Turkish), who it is claimed has fled the country, leaving tens of thousands of people who invested in his game out of pocket.
Analysts quoted in Ahval News on March 16 estimated around 80,000 people invested their money into Farm Bank, with the project raising more than $120m. Around $100m has apparently been paid out to 62,877 investors, but the rest was transferred to the personal bank accounts of Aydin and his wife, according to Turkish media reports. Aydin sold his shares in the company in December 2017. Hurriyet newspaper on March 14 quoted the Aydin family lawyer as saying Aydin had fled to Uruguay where he has started a construction business. His wife, however, is among three people arrested. Warrants have been issued for 19 people in all while assets seized include 1,000 cattle on a dairy farm.
Aydin and his business partners devised the game in 2016, inspired by popular social media game FarmVille. Users buy virtual animals and farming equipment with real money. Aydin promised players their money would be invested in real livestock in different farms across Turkey to create “Europe's biggest cattle farm”. Users, meanwhile, were paid for time spent playing the game.
More than 100,000 Twitter users were discussing Aydin and his scheme by the end of last week and Facebook groups have been set up to discuss legal avenues. Social media users have referred to how Aydin is said to have tried to make it big in rap music, while in another get-rich-quick scheme he once tried to sell glasses on the internet which he claimed showed people naked.
"Even the cow [on the game's logo] looks nervous. How could you be fooled?" one person told a BBC reporter.
Turkey's financial regulators filed a complaint against Farm Bank at the end of last year after user complaints and the company suspended accepting new users on January 9.
"It looks like it [Farm Bank] is an attempt to form a Ponzi scheme by cyber means," customs minister Bulent Tufekci remarked on January 10, Haberturk news site reported.
A public prosecutor's office began an investigation into the company for "aggravated fraud" and "founding a criminal organisation" on 14 March.