‘National, Alternative, Rivaling Bitcoin’
Turcoin, presented as a “rival to the global virtual currency bitcoin,” has been exposed as just another Ponzi scheme, after the executives of the project suddenly disappeared, according to local press reports. The Turkish altcoin, advertised as a national alternative digital currency, was launched by the Istanbul-based company Hipper A.Ş. founded by Muhammed Satıroğlu and Sadun Kaya last year.
In what sounds like a familiar scenario, every new participant in the network was supposed to bring more revenue to the person who signed them up. And as it happens with most financial pyramids, Turcoin crumbled as soon as growth grounded to a halt amid rising suspicions.
Hipper hit the headlines in Turkey with a lavish gala organized to promote the cryptocurrency last year. The event was attended by many Turkish celebrities, Hürriyetrecalls. The company has also reportedly given away about 20 luxurious cars to the token’s early adopters.
The project suddenly stopped paying bonuses in early June. Since then, desperate investors have been trying to reach its Istanbul office without much success. “I am ruined. I don’t know what to do,” a 38-year-old man, who bought Turcoins worth 560,000 TL, almost $120,000 USD, told the daily. Hipper’s website is still online, currently offering “Cloud mining rental services.”
Billion Turkish Liras – Gone?
According to Sabah, the executives of Hipper have left Turkey with 1 billion TL stolen from thousands of defrauded investors. Many of them were lured with promises of monthly incomes of 250 TL (~$52) in return for an investment of 1,500 TL (~$315), the newspaper reported. Angry members of the scheme have raided the company’s office in the northwestern province of Kocaeli after their calls remained unanswered.
“I was only a mediator. Our company, Hipper, does not even have a single dollar in the bank. All the money went to Sadun Kaya’s company in Cyprus,” Muhammed Satıroğlu, one of Hipper’s founders, told Hürriyet. The daily wrote that he owns 49 percent of the company that issued the Turcoins.
Satıroğlu has joined investors in filing a criminal complaint against his partner, Sadun Kaya, who is said to hold 51 percent of the Turkish company and is thought to have fled the country with 100 million TL (~$21 million) taken away from about 10,000 people, according to the numbers quoted by Hürriyet. Satıroğlu claims he has not stolen any money and promises to start refunding Turcoin investors as soon as Turkish authorities unfreeze his bank accounts.
Meanwhile, Sadun Kaya, who has reportedly left Turkey, maintains that not he but his partners embezzled most of the money. “Everyone is trying to put the blame on me,” he complained in a conversation with Sabah. Kaya is also chairing the administrative board of Anafis Inc., another company involved in the scheme.
Amidst conflicting reports about the size of the fraud, it’s unclear if Turcoin will turn out to be the country’s biggest Ponzi scheme. The record holder for now, according to the online outlet Ahval, was revealed in March, when authorities in the northwestern province of Sakarya launched an investigation against Çiftlik Bank. Its 26-year-old founder Mehmet Aydın fled to Uruguay after reportedly collecting more than 500 million TL (~$128 million USD) from some 78,000 people in just two years.