DATE: 28 NOVEMBER 2023
Serving its 14 million customers with its 15,000 employees and almost 700 branches through its domestic subsidiaries as well as its foreign subsidiaries and branches in 4 countries, DenizBank is the 5th biggest private bank of Türkiye, which has provided over 10 Billion USD net capital inflow to our country in its 27-year history. It has provided long-term resources worth more than 30 billion USD to agricultural businesses, SMEs, tourism sector, maritime industry, major infrastructure and energy projects of our country, and education and healthcare sectors. As an institution, we regret that a single incident involving a former employee, which has nothing to do with our Bank, has occupied the public agenda.
Following the initiation of the criminal suit on the subject and rescission of the confidentiality order on the file, many one-sided, untruthful statements have been made by the persons claiming to be the victims and their lawyers in various media organs, hiding the truth about DenizBank A.Ş. Although a verdict of non-prosecution has been ruled about our Bank, these statements are still being used in different media, without consulting our opinions, without verifying their accuracy, and in a biased way. By this way, the facts are distorted and our Bank's reputation is damaged in the news.
In line with our belief that this case, which is still being prosecuted, will be concluded quickly and fairly before the courts and our principle of respecting customer confidentiality, our Institution expects the legal process and justice to be served. Nevertheless, we felt obliged to publish this public announcement in the face of many biased news published. Despite all, we do not mention the names of those involved in our statement, acting with the responsibility of being an institution.
Our bank first became aware of the issue on 07.04.2023, when a customer applied to the branch for a complaint and when Seçil Erzan, who had been serving as the branch manager of our Levent Büyükdere Caddesi Branch since June 2022, was off duty due to a two-day excused leave. WE WOULD LIKE TO BRING TO THE ATTENTION OF THE PUBLIC THAT EVEN THOUGH THE SERIES OF EVENTS OF WHICH THE COMPLAINANTS CLAIM THEY WERE THE VICTIMS DID GO BACK TO APPROXIMATELY A YEAR AGO, UNTIL APRIL 7, NO ONE HAS SUBMITTED A REQUEST, NOTIFICATION OR COMPLAINT TO OUR BANK, BRSA OR CIMER REGARDING THE ISSUE.
WHO WAS THE FIRST ONE TO RESORT TO THE JURISDICTION ABOUT THE SUBJECT?
The subject, which started to be investigated immediately by our Bank's Internal Audit, was reported to our General Manager at around 16:30 on Friday, April 7, 2023. Although we first attempted to contact Seçil Erzan upon the first information we received, we were unable to reach her through two telephone numbers known to our Bank. On the same day, an application was made to the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor's Office. Considering that those involved in the incident are famous names from the football and business worlds, a confidentiality decision was requested on the file in order to protect the personal rights of those involved. Since Seçil Erzan could not be reached in any way, it was requested that a ban be imposed on Seçil Erzan’s leaving the country, considering the possibility of a banking crime.
Later on Friday, April 7, people from the sports world called our General Manager and requested a meeting.
FIRST MEETING WITH 3 COMPLAINANTS ON SATURDAY, APRIL 8
On April 8, Saturday morning, people from the sports world visited our Bank, and a meeting was held with them, with the participation of our executives from the departments of Legal Affairs, Operations, Internal Audit, and Human Resources, the relevant Regional Director and our General Manager. In this meeting, people from the sports world stated that there was a fund after the name of their former coach, that they were fooled by Seçil Erzan, that they delivered significant amount of money to her, and they shared an image of the list of unpaid people, handwritten on a piece of paper. That was the first time that our Bank became aware of all the names claiming to be victims. In the same meeting, the coach in question made statements like "... I cannot understand why Seçil Erzan did this. I treated her as a daughter and let her inside our house. I also have a loss, although I don't know the exact amount." The Bank executives reported that the issue was under the inspection of the Internal Audit; however, as a result of the early detections, no debit/receivable record could be found regarding the amounts subject to the complaint, they did not see any abnormality in the accounting records of the bank, though the inspection was ongoing, and they were still trying to reach Seçil Erzan, but they could not so far. Thereupon, one of the football players said that he was in touch with Seçil Erzan and talked to her until the morning, and that he could give the bank her phone number and her current address if desired, and then they left the bank. After they left the bank, the Bank executives continued the meeting. In the meantime, the same football player, who was also one of the complainants, called them by phone and said that Seçil Erzan is staying at the house of one of her relatives in Çorlu, and gave us the telephone number where we can reach her, which was a different number than those registered at our Bank. He also said that she only accepted to talk to the Regional Director Sermin Tekin, who was the chief supervisor of Seçil Erzan, if she called her. He also stated that “You ask that the complainants apply to the Prosecutor's Office but we don’t let them do it...”.
FIRST CONTACT WITH SEÇİL ERZAN AFTER THE INCIDENT
Although the phone number provided was called, there was no answer. Then, the Regional Director was called by Seçil Erzan from another number and invited to the house in Çorlu to meet her. She shared her location through Whatsapp. The Regional Director, who went to the house in Çorlu on April 8, Saturday afternoon, was invited into the house. There, Seçil Erzan explained that she was constantly threatened by the complainants, she was in a bad mental state and that she wanted to commit suicide, that she was keeping her phones off because she was getting calls constantly. After this 3-hour conversation with the Regional Director, she said that she was relieved, she wanted to tell the truth, she wanted to go to the bank to make a statement before the Internal Audit. Afterwards, pursuant to the Articles 29-32 of the Banking Law no 5411, Article 19 and subsequent articles of the Labor Law No. 4857, Article 5/d, Article 7/a and 7/h, and Article 21/2 of the BRSA’s Regulation on the Internal Systems and Internal Capital Adequacy Assessment Process of Banks, and the provisions of the Personnel Regulation and the Disciplinary Regulation of the Bank, and the provisions of the Employment Agreement signed between the Employee and the Bank, she was invited to our Head Office building at 10:00 on Sunday, April 9, and the Regional Director left the house.
SEÇİL ERZAN GOES TO THE HEAD OFFICE BUILDING AND GIVES STATEMENT
On April 9, Sunday, Seçil Erzan came to the bank in a vehicle belonging to her relative E. E., driven by again her relative H. E. She made statements and explanations in the presence of the executives from the Internal Audit, Human Resources, Legal Affairs and the Regional Director on floor 18, where the meeting rooms are located. During these statements, she said that there might be some notes in her house in Göktürk, but she did not want to go there alone, that’s why the Regional Director accompanied her to her house in Göktürk upon her request. There was a woman in the house called N.A., whom she declared to be her aunt-in-law. After grabbing couple of notebooks from the house, they came back to the bank. The notebooks in question were examined and no meaningful information could be found in there. Seçil Erzan took these notebooks with her in the evening while leaving for her house in Çorlu. In her written and signed defense taken within the scope of the administrative investigation against her, she explained that actually there was no fund, she gave some of the money she collected to people who previously deposited money to her as principal and interest payments, and as a result, she became excessively indebted and as a result lost some property of hers; that although she declared to these people that there was actually no fund, they did not want to believe her, in fact, some of these people used force and violence against her and wanted this ponzi scheme to continue. On the same day, around 22:00, she left the bank with H.E., who had been waiting for her in the lobby while she was giving her statement, for the house in Çorlu, where she stated to have been staying with her mother and some other relatives, and she spent the night there. As she stated that she was being constantly threatened in her statement, we had two unarmed security guards waiting near the house in a vehicle in order to notify the security forces in case of a possible threat and/or assault. Seçil Erzan was personally informed about this situation, and she rendered her thanks to our Bank for this sensitivity.
The next day, on April 10, Monday morning, she came back to the head office building with the same vehicle with the same relative and his spouse in it, and she continued to give her statement. The preliminary inspection report by DenizBank Internal Audit, which is based on the declarations of the complainants applying to the bank from April 7 to April 10 and states that there is no entry to or exit from the DenizBank accounts, meaning that there was no banking crime in question, was submitted to the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor's Office, in charge of the investigation, on April 10. During the delivery of the report, the Prosecutor’s Office informed that there was no other application filed to the office by any victim other than the notification made by DenizBank, the only application on the subject was made by the Bank, and it was explicitly declared that the Public Prosecutor's Office did not detect any banking crime as a result of their first examination.
During these two days when her statement was taken, Seçil Erzan was asked questions in order to understand the incident and its depth, the amount of money involved in the transaction, and the names of the people involved. The statements of the people filing complaints to our Bank were compared with the statements of Seçil Erzan, and it was investigated whether the transactions subject to the complaints were in the records of our Bank. As a result of the investigations, it was understood that the acts allegedly committed by Seçil Erzan were carried out without using accounts in our Bank and by using Seçil Erzan's relationships outside her duties. On the same day, after giving her statements to the Internal Audit, Seçil Erzan returned to the house in Çorlu, where she was staying with her relatives, at around 19:35, together with H. E. and his spouse. She was detained by the police at that midnight and gave a statement to the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor's Office on April, 11. She was referred to the Court of Peace with a request for arrest, and she was arrested after she repeated the same statement in court.
OUR RESPONSES TO THE ALLEGATIONS THAT SEÇİL ERZAN WAS DETAINED BY OUR BANK AND EVIDENCE WAS SPOILED
Contrary to the information provided to the public, especially by some complainants, for manipulation purposes;
- We took the statement of Seçil Erzan within the scope of the administrative investigation initiated against our Bank,
- Her statement was taken before the authorized personnel of our Bank totally in line with the provisions of the Laws numbered 5411 and 4857 and other relevant legislation,
- On April 9, Seçil Erzan arrived at the Head Office building with the vehicle owned by her relative E.E. and driven by her other relative H.E., who waited in the lobby while Seçil Erzan was giving her statement. After giving her statement, she left the building with the same car to go back to the house in Çorlu where she was staying with her mother and spent the night there.
- As in her statement Seçil Erzan stated that she was scared because of the threats and violence she faced, on April 9, we had two unarmed security guards waiting near the house in a vehicle in order to notify the security forces in case of a possible threat and/or assault. Seçil Erzan was personally informed about this situation, and she rendered her thanks to our Bank for this sensitivity.
- A second interview was held with her on April 10. Seçil Erzan arrived at the second interview with the same vehicle mentioned above, escorted by her relative H.E and his spouse. The person of interest said that she could not sleep all night long and she was feeling very exhausted; therefore, with her acceptance, vitamin and serum supplements, prepared under the supervision of one of the five doctors on duty, were given to her by the senior nurse on duty at the in-house clinic which serves more than four thousand employees at the head office building. We regret to inform that this support, which was provided in good faith for the health of Seçil Erzan, was diverted from its purpose and used against our Bank by some attorneys who gave certain statements to the press.
- As Seçil Erzan stated that she could not use her current phones due to the constant harassment of the complainants and some other people whose names she could not mention, a mobile phone with a company line was delivered to her so that she could notify the police forces or us if necessary. The claim of “breaking the phone” in some news is completely untrue. Seçil Erzan delivered her allegedly broken phone to the Prosecutor's Office as evidence through her attorney. The messages extracted from these phones that were not deleted by Seçil Erzan are included in the court file.
- After giving her testimony, at around 19:30, Seçil Erzan left the bank with the same vehicle driven by H.E. to return to Çorlu, to the house where she was staying with her relatives. The same night, she was detained by the police.
As can be understood from our statements, there was no detention or similar attitude by our Bank, and Seçil Erzan did not claim the opposite in her first statement to the Prosecutor's Office on April 11. However, in her second statement dated May 3, which was apparently given with an unknown motive or under some sort of pressure, she mentions something like this, but she also states that “...they were treating me so well that...” which proves that there was actually no detention or something like that. In her statement given during the hearing held on November 20, she also stated that she did not have any complaints about any detention. As explained in details above, all trips to and from the bank's head office were made in the vehicle belonging to her relatives and accompanied by her relatives. After giving her statements at the head office on Sunday and Monday, she left for the house in Çorlu and stayed both nights there. She was even given a phone to use if necessary. So, it is obvious that she always had the opportunity to call the Public Prosecutor’s Office, the police and / or anyone else she would like to call. The issue is already being examined by the Public Prosecutor's Office.
Within this framework, all movements between Seçil Erzan's entry to and exit from our Bank’s Head Office, entrances and exits in the lobby and meeting room were captured through camera recordings and were submitted to the Public Prosecutor's Office accompanied by a report. That being the case, it is an unacceptable claim to describe the implementation of the procedures that we are obliged to follow by law as "detaining our Bank's personnel". To put it more clearly, we would like to state that all allegations that Seçil Erzan was pressured to testify that "there is no crime of embezzlement, it has nothing to do with the bank" and that she was pressured to eliminate the evidence or even deprived of her freedom are completely untrue. Moreover, the pieces of paper that the complainants called documents were submitted to the court by the complainants and their attorneys. Since there was no record of a ponzi scheme at DenizBank, naturally there could not be any spoliation of evidence. DenizBank immediately submitted all other information and documents requested by the Public Prosecutor's Office and BRSA to the relevant authorities. Within this framework, the camera records received in bank branches accepted as sensitive regions are stored for two to three months as a general practice whereas our Bank which is charged by attorneys of some plaintiffs with spoiling evidence delivered the branch camera records by 27 cameras of the Levent Büyükdere Caddesi Branch which were about 10 month-old to the judicial authorities at the early stages of the investigation.
As stated above, the need to receive the statement of Seçil Erzan is a matter stipulated by law, and any action to the contrary will constitute a violation of the Bank's duty.
As such, we would specifically like to point out that, as a result of the analysis and evaluation made by the BRSA, the written application process has not been initiated because it was understood that the crime of embezzlement could not be committed within the scope of Law No. 5411. If the existence of an embezzlement within the scope of Law No. 5411 is determined by a court decision, in accordance with the legislation, the bank will pay the embezzled money to the rightful owners and then can apply for the insurance policy. Therefore, although our Bank has no reflex to avoid a situation that can be resolved within the framework of its own rules, statements that "Seçil Erzan was detained in order to obscure the evidence regarding the crime of embezzlement" are intended to mislead the judicial authorities and the public and to damage the reputation of our Bank.
We would also like to inform the public that if our Bank, which is a joint stock company under the supervision of the BRSA, makes a payment for an act that is not embezzlement without a court decision, then the bank managers will be committing the crime of embezzlement within the scope of Law No. 5411. As we stated above, we have full faith that the statements and allegations made in the press, which do not reflect the truth, will be clarified as soon as possible, as the matter has been referred to the justice system.
IS THE BRANCH MANAGER AUTHORIZED TO RECEIVE MONEY?
Based on the application of the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutors Office, records of 23 banks including DenizBank were analyzed by Auditors assigned by the BRSA. Page 41 of the report numbered 88387 and dated 16.06.2023 prepared for this investigation states “The money claimed to have been received by Seçil Erzan did not enter the Bank's records and/or the Bank's property in any way, there may be an element of deception in the transactions (acting as though such a fund exists although it did not), Seçil Erzan did not have a duty to accept physical and cash money from customers in her employment contract.”
No one in Denizbank other than the teller staff is authorized to accept cash. Banking transactions in all banks in Turkey are carried out in the systems of the relevant banks, and all kinds of cash acceptance transactions from branches can only be carried out at the tellers by personnel assigned for this purpose. Considering that almost all the complainants are customers of Denizbank and other banks, it is contrary to the ordinary flow of life to say that the rule is not known to these people.
DID DENİZBANK MANAGERS KNOW ABOUT THE ALLEGED FUND?
“Bank Managers Hakan Ateş, Mehmet Aydoğdu and Seçil Erzan are listed as suspects in the criminal complaint dated 19.04.2023, which appears to be included in the scope of investigation numbered 2023/82925 carried out by the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor's Office. The Report contains detailed information about the acts attributed to Seçil Erzan. Although it is claimed in some of the suspect's statements that Seçil Erzan collected money in a fund managed by Bank Managers Hakan Ateş and Mehmet Aydoğdu with the promise of making profit with the expectation of high returns, there is no indication (circular, contract, announcement, receipt statement, money movement and other documents) regarding the existence of such a fund managed by the said Bank Managers to which the money obtained from the complainants is transferred in cash or registered”, which clearly indicates that Denizbank Board Members and managers did not have any knowledge on the issue despite claimed by attorneys of some complainants, and within the framework of the BRSA Report, it was decided that there was no need to make a written application regarding embezzlement.
As can be understood from this information, the complainant's attorneys manipulate the documents in the criminal case file in written and visual media as they wish, and freely and recklessly share information contrary to the facts. They attach the meaning they want to the pieces of paper in the hands of the complainants, which they obtained not at the time of money delivery at the first hearing of the criminal case, but later, which do not have any meaning in terms of banking, do not display any banking transactions, and whose meaning is not even clear; and state that their clients were defrauded with these documents. At the hearing dated 20th of November, each of the complainants stated that they obtained the documents and money in their possession on the dates after they delivered them in cash to Seçil Erzan or their couriers.
A part of the telephone conversation with Seçil Erzan on the evening of April 7, which was submitted to the court by the attorney of A.T., who claimed that he gave money to Seçil Erzan and was deciphered by the police units, is given below;
A.T.: How many people are there, 20-25? Seçil, don't lie to us anymore, our children are at stake.
Seçil ERZAN: Arda, less than 100 people …eee.
A.T.: Think about it, guess…
Seçil ERZAN: Just a minute… ee… 10 footballers
Seçil ERZAN: Eee… so like 10 from me… 10 from my close circle of friends.
A.T.: And there is terim, a guy from Fatih Terim
Seçil ERZAN: That’s it… Maybe like 21-22
A.T.: Look Seçil. Listen carefully to what I am going to tell you, we are included in the loop at the prosecutor's office, the police and everything right now. We are not sending anyone anywhere. If you tell the truth, we can try to solve this issue with the bank. If there are 20 people, we will go and try to solve this with the bank. But if you tell me there are 100 people, this won't work.…
Seçil ERZAN: Maximum 23 people or maybe 25 at most. Maybe even less. Ehmmm…
A.T.: So, Seçil, if there are 25 of us, we can go sit down and talk, but do you know the losses of all of us?
Seçil ERZAN: I know the ones in loss. In loss… Emre didn’t get his money, you got your principal but not your interest…
A.T.: I’ve given up on the interest. I’ll write it off for you. I’ve given up 8.250, all by hand. My full principal is around 7.650. I counted it all, you see? What you paid, what you didn’t pay.
Seçil ERZAN: How do you know about the ones that were paid
A.T.: None… Seçil I am desperate, Emre…
Seçil ERZAN: I wrote them all down, I’ll find it
A.T.: So Fatih hoca, did he make a profit?
Seçil ERZAN: So Arda, normally he did make a profit but… you’re alone right?..
A.T.: I’m alone yes, so he profited…
Seçil ERZAN: Yes… Yes…
A.T.: E Hoca had some loans. He is also distraught
Seçil ERZAN: … They are blocking the way. I will find the list.
A.T.: Listen to me. This Hakan abi. Hakan Ateş heard about this today, Mehmet Aydoğdu found out. Didn’t they know anything at all?
Seçil ERZAN: No, they’re going to kill me. But what can they do…
A.T.: Don't think about the bank or anything, Seçil. Right now, we, I mean us, we are holding everyone back so that they don't give you up to the prosecutor's office. You tell us the truth so that we can find a solution and wrap this up as soon as possible, otherwise the prosecutor's office and everything will get out of hand, I mean, there is no doubt about this, you will be in prison for years.
As can be seen from these statements, it is obvious that our Bank's senior management had no knowledge of the incident. Although many complainants stated in their statements that Seçil Erzan could not be reached for months and that those who did reach her were kept at bay, none of them applied to our Bank, the BRSA or other official institutions before the notice made by DenizBank on April 7, eliminating the possibility of our Bank's management being informed about the events that took place outside the bank.
WHY IS DENİZBANK AND ITS MANAGERS BEING TARGETED?
After the application made by our bank on April 7, and within a few days, 29 complainants applied to our Audit Department, claiming that they were defrauded by Seçil Erzan. None of these complainants mentioned that the name of any manager of our Bank was used while being defrauded by Seçil Erzan, but after our complaint to the Prosecutor's Office, some attorneys who made the complaint, without showing any evidence, also named all the bank's Board members and some managers, both local and foreign, who had nothing to do with the incident, in addition to Seçil Erzan. After getting involved in the incident, they started trying to collect the money that could not be collected from Seçil Erzan by putting pressure on the bank managers. In this regard, they did not abstain from acting in ways that could even threaten the Turkish banking system. In fact, a provisional confiscation decision was taken against the bank using documents that they themselves admitted were fake, did not have any meaning in the banking system and were not issued by the bank, and this decision was tried to be enforced in front of the press. The bank's application to the Regional Court of Justice against this decision was accepted, and the unfair and unlawful provisional confiscation decision was annulled. As we stated above, the complainants who did not find it possible to collect this money from Seçil Erzan, filed a lawsuit against the Bank for the purpose of collecting their unjust receivables. As can be understood from all these events, efforts are being made to create public pressure on the bank and its managers.
20 QUESTIONS-20 ANSWERS
Within the framework of the incidents we have summarized above, the question and answer section is provided below in order to answer all the frequently asked questions in the public in the light of the data we have available. The purpose is to present the facts which have been deviated from, procedures and law contents for the public knowledge in the right way and hence avoid the heavy manipulation effort so that the process can be handled properly.
1) How much interest were the banks paying for USD in the past period? What were the interest ratios requested by the complainants?
In these periods, the annual interest rate in the fx accounts did not exceed 4%. The said 4% interest ratio refers to the annual interest and for example, one twelfth of the 4% is paid to the depositor for the deposit deposited for a period of one month. Across the banking system,all the ratios are referred to as annual.
On the other hand , the return at 30-40% level that is recommended including short maturities (such as three days, five days, one month) in dollars starts from 259% in an annual simple rate and corresponds to exaggerated interest rates as high as 2607% which are not realistic and it is common knowledge that it is not meaningful in the banking practices.
2) While the bank reported suspicion for embezzlement, fraud and other crimes while reporting a crime on 7 April why did the prosecution only continue on accounts of fraud and other crimes?
On 7 April 2023 when the incident was found out, as a result of a just a few hours-long review conducted by our Internal Audit Department, as per the urgency of the incident, suspicion for embezzlement, forgery of a private document and fraud were reported by our lawyers due to the confidentiality verdict and international travel ban by Istanbul Chief Prosecutor’s Office. As it can be understood here, the fact that just a few hours passed upon finding out about the incident does not offer any time span that will make it possible to classify the case and crime. However, as a result of the reviews, as indicated by the reports issued by the Internal Audit Department of our Bank and BRSA, there was no finding reached regarding embezzlement in the incident. Therefore, it was decided that there was no place for embezzlement in the prosecution and the process is ongoing on the accounts of aggravated fraud and forgery of a private document.
3) Is there a 5-year term limitation for a Branch Manager in a branch?
Looking at the customary practices in the banking sector, the branch managers can work in the same branch for 5 years or more. There is no legislation provision which prevents this. The key here is to ensure that at least either one of the branch operation manager (who has the full responsibility for controlling all the operations) or the branch manager rotate every once in five years. The same rule was also applied in this branch and operation manager was replaced three times in the period when Seçil Erzan was the manager. Moreover, if there is an employee working as a manager in the same branch for a long time in our Bank, his/her branch is kept subject to a heavy audit plan. This branch was also audited 11 times in the 10-year period during which Seçil Erzan worked there. However, as the transactions were carried out off the record, in other words, outside of the system, there was no finding that could be detected. On the other hand, almost all of the off the record transactions of Seçil Erzan took place in the period when she worked in Levent Büyükdere Caddesi Branch where she was working since June 2022.
4) Can the branch manager collect or receive delivery of money? Is s/he authorized to do that?
According to the internal regulations and job description in DenizBank, the branch managers are prohibited from touching money or receiving money from or delivering money to customers. According to the Disciplinary Regulation of our bank, the acts of, “being involved in any stage of giving money to customer outside of the bank cash against the principles, turning a blind eye to these kinds of practices.”are subject to “Severe Reprimand”, “being involved in any stage of giving money to customer outside of the bank cash against the principles, turning a blind eye to these kinds of practices and causing customer complaint or DenizBank or customers’ losses as a result of these practices or turning these practices into a habit.” are subject to “Termination of the Employment Contract Without Notice and Severance.”
Seçil Erzan already declared in her statement she gave to the court during the trial that she did not have the authority to receive delivery of cash or deliver cash in her job description, which was also confirmed by the BRSA report.
5) Was Seçil Erzan selected as the banker of the year?
Starting her career in our bank in 2000, Seçil Erzan was promoted as a branch manager when she was 33 in 2010. There is no practice such as “Banker of the Year” in our Bank as featured by the press. As in all the banks, a number of campaigns are run in our Bank to reach the objectives according to the priorities of the period during the year and our branch managers are rewarded based on their success. She was in the top 20 branches only once according to our branch ranking system showing our annual assessment results since 2010 when she became a branch manager and during the remaining years, she was outside of the top ranking.
Nevertheless, our Levent Büyükdere Caddesi Branch which is allegedly where Seçil Erzan was promoted to is in the same segment with our Florya Branch. Therefore, it is considered a horizontal transfer and not a promotion.
6) Do the papers that the complainants have mean anything from the perspective of banking?
The papers offered which do not rely on any banking transaction were probably produced by Seçil Erzan without using the banking system. As the claimants found out that the ponzi scheme got obstructed and the said structure collapsed, the said papers are papers WHICH WERE PRODUCED SO THAT THE MONEY THEY DELIVERED CAN BE PROVED AND THEY CAN ESPECIALLY COLLECT THE MONEY FROM OUR BANK AND WERE GIVEN ON THE DATES AFTER THE DELIVERY OF THE MONEY AS IT IS OBVIOUS THROUGH THE STATEMENTS IN THE FILE, TELEPHONE CALL MINUTES AND WHATSAPP CORRESPONDENCE. All the papers offered by the claimants are papers not produced by the system of the bank and therefore have no trace record and do no contain any debt-receivable record on them and are not possible to be monitored through the system. These pieces of papers were mostly handwritten on a notebook paper, note paper, line paper and A4 paper and created casually. These cannot be claimed to be documents, it is not possible to follow up money and documents that do not enter the banking system.
It is not possible to treat these papers as a documents given as per the banking transaction and for a bank to make any payment based on these papers -since all the banking law and regulations rely on recorded transactions and documents that are issued with reference to them.- Based on this, for example when one claimant applies to a bank with a piece of paper on which one hundred million USD is written, will the bank pay for it? If it becomes possible, it will be also within possibility for any banking employee to act with the 3rd parties and bring down the banking system.
7) Were the papers given to complainants by herself produced in the banking system as claimed by Seçil Erzan? Is it possible for the bank to follow them up?
Since all the papers produced by Seçil Erzan were produced by herself “outside of the banking system”, there is no log record (computer trace record) regarding these papers. These pieces of papers were mostly handwritten on a notebook paper, note paper, line paper and A4 paper and created casually. It is not possible to claim that these are documents. Money and documents that do not enter the banking system cannot be followed up.
In addition, all the transactions made by our customers through the paydesk are both recorded by our system and their receipts can be monitored. While depositing or withdrawing money using the bank paydesks, the Bank systems automatically produce receipts. The accounting records created at the time of the transaction regarding these receipts are instantly monitored in the branch and head office systems. There is no receipt practice that is not produced by the system and has no record in the system. Today, the documents given to customers by the banks are not produced by handwriting or outside of the banking system. None of the papers presented to the court by the complainants within the incident were produced in the banking system. As all of the complainants are financially literate and even qualified investors, it is clear that they have the knowledge to tell the papers claimed to have been given to them by Seçil Erzan apart from an actual banking document.It is available in our Bank’s system trace records that the persons mentioned have realized actual banking transactions including fund trading through our internet banking, mobile banking and branch channels various times and they were presented to the court.
8) When were the papers the complainants have delivered to them?
In the statements given within the scope of the investigations in the file no. 2023/341 E. by Istanbul 41st Aggravated Felony Court, those who have transferred money to the system said that “when this money was delivered to Seçil Erzan, no document was given to them by the said party” and they obtained the papers from Seçil Erzan later on upon their requests It is also quite obvious in the tapes which were deciphered.
9) A large number of complainants also inform that they took money from the system. Have they received any document in relation?
No document was presented to our Bank in writing about the repayments stated to be made by Seçil Erzan. Regarding the amounts which are stated to be taken back, as in the deposits which were allegedly deposited in the system, there was no record in our Bank’s system and also no document concerning the amounts they stated to have collected was presented to the court by the complainants. Regarding the delivery of money, no receipt that would prove the place, time, date of delivery and amount was presented. The said amounts do not go beyond a statement.
10) Did Some Documents Have the Branch Operation Manager Asiye Öztürk’s signature? If yes, how did these signatures get taken?
Along with Seçil Erzan’s, the signature of Asiye Öztürk, the Branch Operation Manager is on three false documents The Branch Operation Manager Asiye Öztürk stated that when she was signing the documents, they were first signed by the Branch Manager Seçil Erzan and Seçil Erzan covered the top of the papers during a busy moment in the branch and said that she was waiting for the urgent transactions of the customers and rushed her, keeping her from checking the content of the papers. The said person stated that she had signed the mentioned papers only because her chief supervisor forced her but had no information about the content of the documents herself. Thus, Seçil Erzan defected the will of Asiye Öztürk.
On the other hand, she forged signature in the name of Asiye Öztürk as “A. Öztürk”. on both documents. If Asiye Öztürk and Seçil Erzan had been acting together, Seçil Erzan would not need to forge the signature of Asiye Öztürk and it would be Asiye Öztürk’s signature not on three documents, but on all papers that are the subject matter of the incident.
11) What does having a single or dual signature on a document mean? Would a document having two signatures make that document valid?
None of the papers that the complainants have shows an actual transaction independently of the number of signatures on them and they are not produced by the bank either. The said papers were produced by Seçil Erzan to direct the requests of the complainants in the ponzi scheme to the bank. Having a single or double signature on produced fake documents does not mean anything.
12) Do the Branch Managers have an authority to set up a fund?
Let alone the Branch Managers, even the bank does not have an authority to set up a fund. A fund can only be set up by the CMB-authorized Portfolio Management Companies. Banks can only intermediate the sales of the fund shares of the funds which are already set up.
The articles 52 and 54 of the Capital Market Board no. 6362 include provisions regarding mutual funds whereas based on the said articles, the Guidelines Communiqué On the Mutual Funds (III-52.1) was put into effect. The Said Communiqué regulates the principles regarding the setup of mutual funds, operation principle and rules, participation ratios and their issue and public disclosure. The terms regarding the scope of activity, incorporation and starting to operate are issued in the article 55 of the Capital Market Law. A fund can only be set up by the CMB-authorized Portfolio Management Companies. As Seçil Erzan has no authority to set up a fund, it is not possible to call a system which is stated to have been created by Seçil Erzan a fund. The funds cannot be confidential, they have to be public in a capital market whose framework is determined by the laws and is subject to heavy sanctions. Each fund that is set up is announced on the corporate websites or Public Disclosure Platform. On the other hand, the owners of these type of fund shares have the ability to control their assets (to see if there are any or the amount) through the Central Securities Depositary, internet banking of the banks they work with and mobile banking system any time they wish. Moreover, all of the funds set up in line with the legislation of the Capital Market Board can also be displayed on Electronic Fund Distribution Platform of Türkiye (TEFAS).
13) How can the citizens view information about their funds?
It is possible for customers to view, follow up and control the presence of the mutual funds, account balances and their returns in the bank or intermediary institutions through the branches of the mediating institution, mobile banking and internet banking, E-Government or the website of the Central Securities Depositary with their Citizenship number of the Republic of Türkiye.
14) Do those depositing and withdrawing money in their ponzi schemes have any responsibility?
The claimants delivered their personal savings to Seçil Erzan or couriers by hand outside of the banking system and mostly in places away from the branch locale and some even preferred to give their assets by withdrawing them from DenizBank. This shows that the reporting persons were aware that their money was accruing interest in a ponzi scheme outside of our Bank. It is assessed that Seçil Erzan designed a ponzi scheme and promised exaggerated return to persons. The return expectations which the persons mention in their statements are high at a scale that does not fit the realities of the financial life when compared with the returns of the ordinary banking investment products. In light of the given information, it is considered that the claimants knew that the amounts they said to have given to Seçil Erzan were not accruing interest in the banking system, most of them were connected to each other and mostly included each other in the ponzi scheme by convincing each other and therefore showed the will to act together.
All of our branches are monitored with about 20 cameras for 24/7 and the 24/7 records of the 27 cameras in our Levent Büyükdere Caddesi branch were delivered to Istanbul Police Department Financial Branch office upon the instruction of the Prosecutor’s office from 7 April which is the date of the incident back to 27 July 2022 day by day. The copies of the records belonging to the days stated by the complainants were also obtained by us too. In the records of the claimants watched one by one regarding these incidents, it is found that there was no footage showing that they delivered money on the paydesk of the branch and most of them did not come to the branch on the said days. Within this framework, the camera records received in bank branches accepted as sensitive regions are stored for two to three months as a general practice whereas our Bank which is charged by attorneys of some plaintiffs with spoiling evidence delivered the branch camera records which were about 10 month-old to the judicial authorities.
15) What happened to the money that was handed over inside a suitcase with installed GPS by one of the complainants? How can it be explained that someone suspicious enough to install GPS on a suitcase but still deposit money in the system again despite having detected this?
In summary, the said complainant stated in his/her Prosecutor’s Office petition; on 14.11.2022, s/he handed money in the amount of 2.500.000 USD with two or three bags over to Seçil Erzan and as she carried large volumes of money in the bag at various times, s/he installed a GPS device in the bag, and those bags with GPS on were followed up by the customer, on a date which s/he remembers to be 15.11.2022 or 16.11.2022, at around 01.00 am, Seçil Erzan called him/her and asked “Was GPS device installed on the money bag you gave to me?” and s/he answered“There may be GPS devices but I don’t know which bag has it”.
After this, someone called him/her on 5********* and inquired if the GPS-installed bag belonged to him/her in a tense manner and s/he handed the GPS-installed bag to Seçil Erzan and the person calling him/her is a former football player known to the public and next s/he called Seçil Erzan and asked “why did you give the bag to this person” and Seçil answered “this person and his spouse are in the bank, do not mention that there is money in the bag next to them”. and in summary, s/he understood that the money s/he gave to Seçil Erzan was given to another former football player.” The claimant keeping on handing additional cash to Seçil Erzan again by hand after this incident despite the suspicious incidents mentioned above is a subject begging for an explanation.
16) Can the bank ask its customers wishing to withdraw money why they are doing so? Does the bank have the luxury not to make a payment?
It is not possible for the bank to limit the requests of its deposit customers regarding money withdrawals. As per the 61st article of the Banking Law, the Banks have to fulfill the request of the depositor to withdraw his/her money. Therefore, it was considered normal by the bank when they withdrew money from their own accounts, the suspicious transactions were inquired and however in the explanations made by the depositors for this purpose, as reasonable explanations were made without mentioning the transactions that they were thinking of making with Seçil Erzan, the transactions were not made subject to the suspicious transaction notifications.
To explain the matter with an example, a complainant requested to withdraw about 2 million USD in his/her Exchange Rate Protected Deposit account that is one day left till its maturity date. Given the loss the customer would incur in case of withdrawing the money and the earning s/he will make if s/he waits only for one more day, it was informed that there would be a loss of 65 thousand USD, however, the customer insisted on withdrawing his/her money declaring that s/he was going to purchase a house. Our branch employee, suspicious of the customer being subject to a fraud incident reminded the customer of his/her losses by going to his/her house even though s/he is not obliged to do so by the law, however, the complainant confirmed to our employee that “s/he was going to purchase the house for a very cheap price. As can be understood from the statement s/he gave the Prosecutor’s office,s/he delivered the money s/he withdrew from the bank and took outside of the bank to Seçil Erzan’s courier in front of a restaurant without taking any document. As it can be understood through the concrete incident that, our Bank puts an extra effort way beyond its legal obligations to protect its customers. The said person is the complainant who first reported the ponzi scheme to our Bank on 7 April.
17) After the complainants who have an account withdraw their money on the paydesk, does the related bank have any responsibility?
The bank cannot restrict and prevent the customer from withdrawing his/her money. If the customer wishes to withdraw, the bank has to pay the customer’s money. Since the money is already within the system, it is the natural right of the person to withdraw his/her money. The bank inquiring the customer as to “why s/he withdrew the money” is against the Personal Data Protection Law and Banking Law.
In the event that the account owner withdraws cash from his/her bank account, in other words, moves the money outside of the banking system, the ownership and responsibility of the bank on the money is also removed. The only requisite is that the account owner’s signature should be obtained at the time of withdrawal. In practice, the signature of the account owner or persons authorized by the former is obtained on the receipt regarding the cash withdrawal produced through the bank systems. With this practice, the Bank’s responsibility on the money that is withdrawn also ends.
As the money is withdrawn by cash, the person who has the money becomes the sole person who has both ownership and authority on the money. The unique responsibility and right to use the cash withdrawn from the bank belongs to the person who is the owner of the money. From then on, the bank has no longer the responsibility of the fate of the money that has been moved outside of the banking system.
For example, the money that was transferred by the former football player’s to his sibling’s account and that was withdrawn by his sibling was later delivered to a third person, who is not our Bank’s staff member and was taken out of the bank by that person (It was detected from retrospective footage inspections that the third person was A.Y., who ran cash-related errands for Seçil Erzan and who is still under arrest). The speculations by the attorney of a complainant in the press that, “my client delivered their cash inside the bank” and “such amount of money is delivered to someone and does the bank not notice this?” are unfounded and futile.
18) Are cash withdrawal transactions above USD 50 thousand subject to audit as given in the statement?
No, they are not. There is no such audit practice in our Bank or the sector. The matter related to transactions above USD 50 thousand is conveyed to the public inaccurately. In cash depositing transactions, banks can look into the source of the money deposited in accounts without any limitation to the amount, pursuant to their own internal practices, within the framework of AML rules. In cash withdrawal transactions, it is not legally possible for the bank to implement such control on its customers’ assets. Every restriction to be imposed on withdrawal of deposits would constitute the crime of preventing the right of withdrawal of depositors as per article 61 of the Banking Law.
A transaction is reported to MASAK only if such transaction appears to be suspicious. There is nothing suspicious about cash withdrawal from an account by the account owner or a person s/he authorised.
19) Was it suggested by public entities and institutions that the bank should pay the money?
The claims in questions that were covered in the press and social media are entirely unreal, and there has been no such direction or suggestion from any official bodies to our Bank or any of its managers.
20) Why doesn’t the Bank pay this amount, which is not significant given its balance sheet and profitability, and close the subject?
While the amounts that are subject matter of the incident are not significant for a bank and therefore, our Bank’s equity, we would like to submit it to the attention of the public that if our Bank, which is a joint stock company regulated by the BRSA, made any payment due to a non-embezzlement act without a court verdict, the managers of such a bank that make such payment would have in fact committed the crime of embezzlement pursuant to the Law numbered 5411.
DATE: 2 NOVEMBER 2023
STATEMENT RELATED TO CERTAIN FOOTAGE COVERED IN PRESS AND MEDIA ORGANS
21) As shown on TV, was a high amount of cash deposited at the branch exactly one year ago?
In certain news shows of yesterday evening (1 December 2023), the evidential camera footage, which was enclosed to our report prepared by our Internal Audit Department and submitted to Istanbul Public Prosecutor’s Office and the BRSA on 28 April 2023, which is 21 days after the Seçil Erzan incident, which was reported by our Bank for the first time to Istanbul Public Prosecutor’s Office and the BRSA following the application of two complainants to our branch on 7 April, was broadcast partially in such a way altering the timeline of incidents. It was considered necessary to make the following statement since the mentioned content was used on social media in a way that it might lead to exaggeration and misjudgement.
As we have stressed since day one, certain sums of money – claimed to have been handed to the Ponzi scheme at the bank – were taken out of bank records by cash payment contrary to claims, and delivered to the organisation, which is called “the system”. In fact, this matter was explained with details and examples in the answer to question 17 in “20 Questions - 20 Answers” section of the 3rd Public Announcement issued by our Bank on 28 November 2023.
If, as claimed, there had been a fund account in the bank, the money could not have been withdrawn in cash and would have been transferred from account to account.
The relevant camera footage is not related to some cash deposited into our Bank, on the contrary, it belongs to the transaction of cash withdrawal from the account of an account owner. The plaintiff, former athlete, transferred the amounts in his account to the company owned by his sibling. His sibling, who had the authority to withdraw money from the company, withdrew the amount of 2 million 490 thousand USD, which was previously conveyed to our Bank and prepared upon request, from the branch in cash. As can be explicitly understood from the footage, the account owner put the black bag on a table at the paydesk and the mentioned amount, for which he placed withdrawal order, was put into the bag in cash. This is clearly seen on camera footage. Right after that, the person, later understood to be A.Y., whom Seçil Erzan used to run her money-related errands, took the black bag full of cash and left the bank. The account owner signed the payment slip as appropriate to the existing signature circular at our Bank, kissed Seçil Erzan goodbye and greeted our security staff waiting by the door, and left the branch a very short time after that. As we have explained with examples in the 17th point in our statement entitled 20 Questions - 20 Answers, dated 28 November 2023, the responsibility on any money that passed into the customer’s possession in cash and and that is taken out of the bank.
As a response to the criticism raised in the same news shows as to “why the money is not delivered from the paydesk”, we would like to express that this section is a part of the paydesk area and monitored with cameras. Large sums of cash is delivered in that area, which is closed to other customers due to security reasons, parallel to sector practices, since the front part of the paydesks protected by security glass does not allow the physical delivery of such amounts.
As a response to the criticism raised in the same news shows as to “why the money is not delivered from the paydesk”, we would like to express that this section is a part of the paydesk area and monitored with cameras. Large sums of cash is delivered in that area, which is closed to other customers due to security reasons, parallel to sector practices, since the front part of the paydesks protected by security glass does not allow the physical delivery of such amounts.
We would like to submit for your information the evidential camera footage, which was enclosed to our report dated 28 April 2023, prepared by our Internal Audit Department, to inform the public.
This footage is evidence that verifies our claims, which we highlighted in our announcement on 28 November2023, stating that such transactions took place OUTSIDE OF THE BANK SYSTEM. Moreover, no complaint has been reported so far to any authority, including our Bank, related to the transactions in the camera footage.
Important Reminder: We kindly request that press, social media and other persons and entities read the official statements made by our Bank regarding the matter with care and include the information provided by us before they make any statements. Otherwise, the risk of misperception and misunderstanding of the evidence by the public arises, while the only purpose of our institution is to ensure that the incidents are uncovered fully and honestly. This is of great importance to prevent any misunderstandings and misperceptions in our sector, not just our Bank.
We would like to thank you in advance for your sensitivity.
Respectfully announced to the public.
DATE: 14 JANUARY 2024
22) Our statement regarding the unrealistic claims and remarks of an attorney, who is involved in the case, expressed during a television network’s live broadcast on January 13, 2024 in which he participated.
It was considered necessary to provide the following statement subsequent to the appearance of Attorney Rezan Epözdemir on a television network’s live broadcast on 13 January 2024 and his remarks with unfounded allegations and distorted information, mentioning our CEO Hakan Ateş as well, with the intention to deliberately damage the reputation of our institution and executives.
Within the scope of Seçil Erzan case, which is on the public agenda; both during the hearing on 12 January 2024 and the live broadcast carried out on the television network in question on 13 January 2024, Attorney Rezan Epözdemir referred to the WhatsApp correspondence in the expert’s report included in Seçil Erzan’s case file, which is indicated to have taken place between Seçil Erzan and her cousin Tanın Yılmaz on 28.01.2023, given below:
Tanın Yılmaz: “Where’s this fancy-pants, abroad?”
Seçil Erzan: “Is Megeve in Austria”
Tanın Yılmaz: “France”
Tanın Yılmaz: “Oh boy do they know to eat and travel”
Tanın Yılmaz: “Dude, where do they find the money, shall we have a look at their account movements?”
Seçil Erzan: “Dude, it’s thanks to me they are doing well”
Upon the question as to who the people mentioned in the correspondence were and whether the said person is DenizBank CEO Hakan Ateş or not; Seçil Erzan stated that sisters of Merve, who is Tanın Yılmaz’s wife, had gone on a skiing trip to Megève, France. She stated that they were talking about that and the person mentioned in the conversation was not Hakan Ateş. Following that, the aforementioned Attorney submitted to the court a photograph of a group, which included our CEO Hakan Ateş, taken at a different skiing resort, and claimed that it was that particular holiday and those were the people who were on that holiday in the conversation in question.
The truth is that the photograph shown on live broadcast and at the court, was taken from magazines that published family and friends’ photos shot in front of Sway Hotels, a skiing resort in Erzurum, Palandöken, between the dates of 29 January 2021 and 31 January 2021 – precisely 2 years prior to the date of the conversation in question.
The easiest evidence to that is available in the attached news clippings including Hürriyet Kelebek, Sabahla Günaydın, Hello Magazine, Şamdan Magazine, Yenigün and Yeni Birlik of the same dates (between 3 – 17 February 2021).
Presenting a photograph taken in 2021 as if it were shot in January 2023 is an act intended to manipulate the Court and the public opinion while entirely disregarding ethical rules, and, it is also an act constituting a crime in terms of the Turkish Penal Code.
The below correspondence dated 28.01.2023, which is the rest of the former conversation demonstrated at the court and during the said broadcast, and that reads as follows:
Tanın Yılmaz: “Dude, January 27 is the birthday of no3, they did a birthday weekend”
Seçil Erzan: “I’ve said this a thousand times”
Seçil Erzan: “They just don’t understand, man”
Tanın Yılmaz: “Merci to you, I’ve read megeve, you’re going to Geneva, hopping from one place to another, at the skirts of the montblanc, a little posh, why don’t you look who else is there”
makes it clear that the people that were on holiday at the Megève skiing resort of France were Merve Yılmaz’s siblings.
Refutation has been sent to the television network in question, and a complaint will be filed at the bar association he is a member of and charges will be brought at the Public Prosecutor’s Office against this person who has accepted that the end justifies the means, who has been visiting television networks with pieces of paper he knows that are irrelevant, and has been acting to carry out a perception operation and gain popularity via media by smearing DenizBank’s name, departing from his groundless and distorting remarks as before and expressions which have been subject matter of the refutation text in question.
It remains critically important to explicitly disclose the truth to ensure that the public are correctly informed with regard to the unfounded accusations and groundless remarks of Rezan Epözdemir, who intends to deliberately damage the reputation of the institution.
Kindly submitted for information.
DenizBank Financial Services Group