Mehmet Aydın, the young founder of “Farm Bank” (Çiftlik Bank), a Ponzi scheme that conned users out of over half a billion Turkish lira, faced a judge for the second time on Sept. 15.
Aydın, nicknamed “Tosuncuk” (the Turkish word used to describe a chubby infant), was extradited to Turkey from Brazil after fleeing the country with the 500 million lira he earned from the scheme. He faces up to 75,260 years in prison on charges of founding a criminal organization and engaging in criminal fraud.
Aydın founded “Farm Bank” (Çiftlik Bank in Turkish) in 2016 with a principal of 10,000 lira. The online platform promised users income from real world crops and livestock if they purchased these items online. The scheme grew quickly - by the time Aydın fled Turkey in 2018, he had raised 500 million lira in profit from 132,000 users. Aydın is being charged alongside 20 other defendants allegedly involved in the scheme, two of whom are still on the run.
While Aydın initially kept his promise of real world return for virtual investment, payments to customers halted soon after Farm Bank began to grow. Users filed formal complaints about the company and in 2018 the company’s assets were seized and a criminal investigation was launched into the organization. At that point, Aydın fled Turkey with the 500 million lira the company had earned in profit.
In 2020, Turkish and Latin American investigators located Aydın in Brazil. However, Turkey was unable to extradite him due to diplomatic barriers. While in Brazil, he allegedly received nearly 1 million Turkish liras in cryptocurrency each month, wired to an offshore account. This while a private investigator hired by victims of the scheme, Turkish authorities, and Interpol were all on his trail.
In late June of this year, after three years on the run, Aydın released a video claiming that he never intended to hurt users of his platform and that he was “also a victim.” After he was extradited, he was flown to the Istanbul Airport and was arrested there on July 3. He was taken directly to the Anadolu Adalet Sarayı (Anatolian Palace of Justice), where he made a statement to the Turkish organized crime bureau and was arraigned.
In his second hearing at the Istanbul 6th High Criminal Court, held on Sept. 15 at the Adalet Sarayı (Justice Palace), Aydın requested to read a prepared, written statement. In it, he said he would repay his victims their losses if the Turkish government would return his seized assets.
“If given the opportunity, I would like to cover the damages suffered by all of the complainants using my confiscated assets,” he said.
He also insisted that Farm Bank’s operations were “trade” and that the allegations that he founded a criminal organization are unfounded.