Last updated : 05 January 2006 By Ed

Press Association:

A pair of crooked bank workers admitted stealing about £300,000 from the accounts of three Manchester City footballers.

The duo hatched a plot to fleece the sports stars of hundreds of thousands of pounds by making withdrawals over a 15-month period, Manchester Magistrates Court was told.

With two friends who laundered the stolen cash, the pair secretly diverted funds from the accounts of Vicente Vuoso, Djamel Belmadi and Daniel Van Buyten.

Paul Sherwood, 25, of Simister Green, Prestwich, Greater Manchester, worked as a cashier at the Co-op bank in Manchester. He masterminded the swindle and stole almost £240,000 from the three soccer stars.

Sherwood recruited his own boss at the branch, supervisor Paul Hanley. Hanley, 20, of Whitworth Street, Manchester, helped Sherwood hide the theft and himself stole more than £70,000.

Argentinian central midfielder Vuoso joined the club in the summer of 2002 before leaving the following year to play for Santos Laguna in Mexico.

Belmadi, an Algerian midfielder, moved to Manchester City in January 2003 but departed later in the year, leaving more than £230,000 in his bank account. Belgian centre back Van Buyten joined City in January 2004 but left in May that year when he moved to Hamburg.

Opening the case for the prosecution, Alan Richardson said the pair had specifically targeted the players because they stayed at the club for only a short time and did not use the accounts regularly.

He said: "The Crown says it is significant the players targeted were here for a short time only and did not use the accounts on a day-to-day basis. These men committed a serious breach of trust.

"These offences were sophisticated and organised in that they targeted players who had travelled from overseas and only played for the club for a short time." The trial continues.