Turkish Ponzi scheme founder says prisons better than state-run dormitories

Mehmet Aydın, who is facing up to 75,260 years in prison for creating the Farm Bank Ponzi scheme game (“Çiftlik Bank” in Turkish), said that the conditions in prisons were better than state-run university dormitories in Turkey.

Duvar English

Mehmet Aydın, the young founder of “Farm Bank” (Çiftlik Bank), a Ponzi scheme that conned users out of over half a billion Turkish lira, has told his life in prison in an interview with OdaTV.

Aydın, nicknamed “Tosuncuk” (the Turkish word used to describe a chubby infant), is facing up to 75,260 years in prison on charges of founding a criminal organization and engaging in criminal fraud.

In the interview, Aydın, who has been imprisoned in Edirne F Type Prison for 29 months, said he was staying in a two-story cell. “There are wardrobes for bedding and clothes upstairs. The downstairs is American kitchen  style, there is a TV and a round table in the living room, and there is only tea and coffee in the downstairs kitchen.”

“The meals are a thousand times better compared to KYK dormitories, being served in the form of 3 meals,” Aydın said, referring to state-run university dormitories of the Student Loans and Dormitories Institution (KYK).

Aydın said he was spending his day reading books and studying, watching TV series and movies in the evenings and exercising in the morning. He added that he lost 30 kilograms in prison.

“Since I arrived, I have been staying alone in a 3-person room. They take very good care of health issues such as medicine and hospitals. Maybe there are many people out there who do not have such opportunities. No worries about gas bills, no worries about being left in the dark when the electricity went out. I applied for a dentist and my procedure was done the same day. You have to wait five months outside for this procedure. I feel like I'm praising this, but that's the situation here,” Aydın added.

Aydın argued he was unaware of the “irregularities” in his Farm Bank game. “I wish I had taken care of things myself. I wish I hadn't named the game Çiftlik Bank. As you know, I was sentenced to 2.6 years in prison for using the phrase bank.”

Aydın also said he would again do the same things without making the mistakes if he “had a time machine and could go back. I have never acted with the intention of defrauding people.” 

“In their statements to the press, the then Justice Minister and Trade Minister promised that the victims would be paid from the confiscated assets. Currently, the only reason why victims cannot receive their money is the injunction placed on the company's assets,” he argued.

He then criticized the people who had been defrauded by Farm Bank and said “However, what to do was clear. With the contract they had, they would collect their receivables through enforcement if necessary. What happened now? The assets of the company they accused of fraud were left to the treasury. In other words, I don't feel any remorse because they left their own property to the treasury with their own hands.”

Aydın lastly said he would want to do e-commerce when he was released.

Aydın was extradited to Turkey from Brazil in 2021 after fleeing the country with the 500 million lira he earned from the scheme.

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.

Farm Bank is thought to have collected over 500 million liras from more than 75,000 users, and Aydın is thought to have transferred at least 100 million of the funds to his personal accounts, some of which are located in Turkish Cyprus. 

A Ponzi scheme is a fraudulent investment operation where revenue paid by new investors generates returns for older investors, rather than from legitimate business activities or profit from financial trading.