Turkish bank denies role in alleged swindling of soccer stars

The logo of Denizbank is displayed on a screen at the bank's headquarters in Istanbul, Turkey March 2, 2016. REUTERS/Murad Sezer/ File photo

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkish lender Denizbank said on Tuesday it had no role in the alleged swindling of Arda Turan, Fernando Muslera and other soccer stars by a former branch manager through a pyramid scheme.

An Istanbul prosecutor has sought a 216-year jail term for Secil Erzan, the former branch manager, on charges of defrauding a group of celebrities including Turan, the former Barcelona midfielder, and Galatasaray goalkeeper Muslera.

According to the October indictment, Erzan allegedly defrauded some $44 million from 18 individuals by promising substantial returns on their investments in a "secret special fund".

Erzan convinced the soccer stars to invest in the fund, in part by telling them that iconic former player and Turkish national team coach Fatih Terim had also invested, the indictment, seen by Reuters, alleges.

She partly paid some of the returns to some of the investors, but she failed to pay any returns or principal money to most of the investors, according to the indictment.

Erzan pleaded guilty, but said in mitigation that she paid back the principal money of almost all investors. She was not able to pay some of the returns she promised, she said.

In a statement released on Tuesday, Denizbank said that the lender had no information on the fund since all transactions took place outside the banking system.

Denizbank learned of the transactions on April 7 when some of the alleged victims informed it of Erzan's fund, and the lender handed over its internal investigation file to the prosecutor's office on April 10, the statement said.

"There is no record of that pyramid scheme at DenizBank," it said.

Erzan, who has been in custody since April 11, and six other individuals are accused of "aggravated fraud" and "document forgery."

(Reporting by Ebru Tuncay and Huseyin Hayatsever; Editing by Jonathan Spicer and Alex Richardson)

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