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Erdogan weighs in on bank scam involving Turkish stars

Legendary Turkish coach Fatih Terim led Galatasaray to UEFA Cup glory in 2000
— Istanbul (AFP)

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday urged Turks to steer clear of pyramid schemes as a scandal raged at a top bank that allegedly defrauded celebrities and football stars of millions of dollars.

Turkey's media has been filled with headlines for days about the troubles at privately-owned Denizbank.

Court documents reported by Turkish media show that one of the bank's Istanbul branch managers orchestrated a $44-million scheme that promised 250-percent returns for those willing to hand over piles of cash.

The failed fund bore the name of Turkey's legendary football coach Fatih Terim and allegedly defrauded stars such as former Barcelona midfielders Arda Turan.

Terim gained hero status by leading Istanbul's Galatasaray to the UEFA Cup title in 2000.

He has not said anything in public about the scandal.

The Istanbul branch bank manager who created the fund, and reportedly received bags full of dollars from celebrities and players, said that Denizbank managers knew about the scheme.

Denizbank has denied the claim and said it has launched an internal audit to investigate the fund's collapse.

Erdogan said Saturday that "investigations into the suspects mentioned in this case continue".

"Turkey is a state of law and whoever commits unlawful acts will be punished," Erdogan said in comments released by his office.

"Our citizens should not fall into the traps of fraudsters who offer high profits in a short time with the promise of easy money," he said.

Istanbul prosecutors are seeking more than 200 years in prison for Denizbank branch manager Secil Erzan for allegedly organising the scam.

Erzan reportedly launched the fund last year to help drum up cash to cover up past investment losses.

Denizbank said in a statement that it "first became aware of the issue when a complainant, who is also our customer, came to the branch" in April.

The bank added that "the amounts in question are not significant in terms of the size for the bank's" total assets.

Denizbank now operates as a local unit of the Emirates NBD.

The Dubai-based lender purchased it from Russia's state-owned Sberbank in 2019.