Police detained three suspects - the CEO and executives of Anadolu Farm - on Friday on charges of fraud. Anadolu Farm is accused of defrauding players of a virtual farm game after collecting money with the promise of investment in physical farms.
Anadolu Farm was under investigation after Mehmet Aydın, the founder of Çiftlik Bank, a similar Ponzi scheme based on a virtual farm game, fled abroad after defrauding thousands of people.
A financial crimes body was investigating the company, which is based in the central city of Kayseri, for wrongdoing.
Authorities seized assets of the company and bank accounts of executives. Anadolu Farm, which has about 44,000 players, runs restaurants founded by funds collected from players. It was established eight months ago, riding on the popularity of similar farm simulators. Authorities have ordered a freeze on bank accounts of the company, effectively stopping payments to members.
Online farm games, which have been popular among Turkish users in the past two years, propelled Mehmet Aydın, a 26-year-old man, to fame when he appeared on TV ads showing massive farms he built with money collected from players. After an investigation revealed that he actually swindled Çiftlik Bank players of millions, Aydın fled to Uruguay, while his wife, who was accused of involvement in the scheme, and two others were detained on charges of fraud. Çiftlik Bank, Anadolu Farm and other similar games are a new type of Ponzi scheme according to experts. Players are encouraged to invest real money into virtual animals and crops with the promise of higher returns.