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Sunday, February 25, 2024
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Tracking Devices and Bags of Cash: A Soccer Scandal in Turkey

  • Former Turkish soccer players lost millions of dollars in a Ponzi scheme.
  • The situation included large sums of cash being moved between individuals.
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

New details are emerging of a wild story involving European soccer stars and tens of millions of lost dollars.

Former Barcelona and Atletico Madrid winger Arda Turan is among the victims of a $44 million Ponzi scheme that played out in Turkey last year, according to an indictment filed in court last week. The former Turkish national team member told Bloomberg he lost $7.5 million by investing in a secretive fund run by a local bank manager.

According to court documents, Secil Erzan — a now-jailed former manager of a DenizBank AS branch — took large sums of cash from clients, including prominent players, and promised a 250% return on the investments. “People who bring me cash come in with a bag,” Erzan said in her testimony after being arrested in April. “And they leave with an empty bag.”

Turan invested $13.9 million altogether in the fund. A former teammate on Turkey’s national squad, Emre Belozoglu — whose club career included stops at Atletico Madrid, Newcastle United, and Inter Milan — was also an investor in the fund. (Belozoglu has not commented on the case.)

As the scheme began to unravel, one businessman involved in the fund put a tracking device in a bag of cash he “invested” — and found out that the same cash ended up with another person involved in the scheme, who received it as an interest payment.

The situation is still developing, and DenizBank says it has triggered an internal audit.

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