The $100 Million Game Turkish Officials Worry Is Pyramid Scheme

Mehmet Aydin,   developer associated with the  $100 million video game  at the center of a pyramid structure investigation in Turkey, says this individual was first  inspired by The farmville game.

Like the online farming simulation game that was popular earlier this particular decade, his Turkish knockoff, Plantation Bank, allows players to buy digital animals, and produce  and sell  virtual crops. The difference is their participants must invest real cash  –   so much of it that  Aydin claims he’ s likely to open Europe’ s biggest dairy products farm with the proceeds.

Mehmet Aydin
Photographer: Salih Unal/Ciftlik Bank

“ I could see all these Ponzi schemes online and I believed ‘ these fraudsters are foolish, ’ " Aydin, 26, mentioned on the 550-acre plot of cultivated fields he bought in November within the central  village of Pazarkaya, regarding halfway between Istanbul and Aleppo, Syria. “ They should be making actual investments with the money they gather from people instead of tricking all of them. ”

Exactly what Aydin insists is an innovative method to allow regular people to earn  money  and help revive an suffering industry has raised suspicions  amongst authorities concerned the wildly well-known game is a scam that will ultimately collapse and leave many Turks empty handed. Ciftlik  Bank ceased accepting new members on Wednesday pending the results of  government research.

Turkey’ s traditions and trade ministry on Fri banned advertisements from Farm Financial institution, or Ciftlik Bank as it’ s known in Turkish, for 3 months to avoid misleading consumers that might believe it' s a real lender.

35, 000 Cows

Trying to dispel anxieties, Aydin  acquired invited his fellow citizens past due last month to the Anatolian web site outside where he says he’ ersus going to build a $185-million dairy service. It’ s meant to house thirty-five, 000 head of cattle, possessed by Ciftlik Bank investors.

Braving a frigid rainfall, hundreds of Turks traveled from across the nation for reassurance that they weren’ big t being duped.

“ I had trust issues at first, however they gained my trust after I noticed that the investments are really happening, ’ ’ said Hasan Celebi, twenty three, who traveled  about  1, a hundred kilometers (680 miles) from  the particular eastern province of Erzurum. “ You put in 1 lira and also you get back 2 . 25 liras in a given time with Ciftlik Bank. I will obtain a bank loan to invest more. ’ ’

Aydin, who discovered how to program video games by viewing YouTube tutorials,   couldn' t  have fathomed how  quickly Ciftlik  Bank would gain momentum after  launching it in August 2016. Players start by opening  free  online account details. Then they buy virtual animals — sheep, cows, bees, chickens — and purchase food to feed all of them until production of milk, darling or eggs kicks off. They sell vegetation for  profits that can be cashed in for  liras or reinvested to broaden their virtual farms.

Investors  have dedicated  more than 400 million liras ($106  million) so far and Aydin states there are 350, 000 domestic plus 150, 000 foreign players from the Ciftlik  Bank,   whose mother or father – Fame Game — relies in Northern Cyprus to avoid taxes.

Criminal Investigation 

Advertisements on Facebook, Tweets and YouTube carried a theme music that pledges you' ll  “ double your investment in one 12 months. ” According to the Ciftlik  Bank web site, in the event of bankruptcy  the company  ensures principal payments and those who commit 5, 000 liras or more obtain a written contract.

Claims like this have raised red flags amongst Turkish authorities. Along with the trade ministry, which started its probe final month, the Capital Markets Board submitted a criminal complaint against Ciftlik Bank, saying it carries top features of a pyramid scheme. The Ministry of Industry lodged a separate problem accusing  Ciftlik Bank of mistakenly advertising that Aydin would obtain an award from Minister Faruk Ozlu in Malaysia.

“ It’ s impossible for this to pay the high returns it claims, ” the Capital Markets Board stated in a Dec. 28 statement.

Pyramid and  ponzi  techniques are get-rich-quick scams that typically  offer  returns to investors through money paid in by following participants. There isn’ t a real investment backing it up and eventually the machine falls apart, leaving later traders with nothing.

“ No sector is this profitable, ” said Oguz Yavuz , an Istanbul-based lawyer specializing in i . t and trade. “ For Ciftlik Financial institution to keep running, more members have to keep entering the system. This implies that will Ciftlik Bank is a Ponzi fraud that may only exist by paying the members’ money with new members’ money. "

Plantation Bank  allows players to buy digital animals, and produce  and sell  virtual crops.
Source: Ciftlik Bank

Aydin insists  his intention isn’ t in order to trick anyone. He' s constantly wanted to  invest in agriculture as well as the game provides him with the money to do so. He spent 15 mil liras on the plot of cultivated fields and aims to start producing whole milk by the second half of 2018. The organization is  even  signing franchise contracts with vendors across Turkey.

“ I want the government to check into me and my company. I would like it to be over as soon as possible, ” Aydin  said.

Whilst he discourages people from promoting their houses or cars in order to participate, some are doing just that. Hamza Aslan , the 58-year-old former car salesman, sold  his cars to raise 250, 1000 liras to invest. He predicts the particular project will help ease inflation simply by bringing down food prices.

But Tevfik Keskin, who mind Turkey’ s Milk Producers Organization, said  the past three years have been “ terrible” for dairy producers since wholesale milk prices plunged. “ Lots of dairies are shutting lower, ” he said.

Gross profit margins for publicly traded European milk companies range from 15 in order to 20 percent — a significantly cry from what Ciftlik claims, added Erdem Hafizoglu, an expert at brokerage BGC Partners within Istanbul.

Selling Belongings

At the ground-breaking wedding ceremony for the farm, there weren’ big t many cynics. The district gran attended and the emcee likened Aydin to one of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’ s son-in-laws, Selcuk Bayraktar, the 38-year-old heir to a protection industry firm, for both becoming successful at a young age.

Ciftlik Bank has gained traction simply by capitalizing on the rise associated with nationalist and religious sentiments at the same time when  Turkey’ s divisions along with NATO allies are deepening. Numerous players see Ciftlik as serving the patriotic purpose of helping ease Turkey’ s reliance on imports. Attractive to these sensibilities, the event began using a reading from the Koran and finished with Ottoman military band shows.

“ I intend to invest around 20, 000 liras at first and, if it all will go well, I might even sell the car to invest more, ” stated Seyhmus Onum, 30, who traveled  over 1, 000  kilometers from  Mardin to be there.

Aydin, who says the plantation can be fully financed with members’ cash, has already branched into brand new ways of making money. In a Facebook post  this month, he said he’ s taken up  mining – of  Bitcoin.