Thursday 27 October 2016

Judge dismisses ATM theft case as State failed to technically prove bank existed

Declan Brennan

Published 23/06/2016 | 18:15

An Ulster Bank branch
An Ulster Bank branch

A judge has dismissed the case against a man accused of stealing money from a cash machine because he said the State had failed to prove the bank existed.

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Judge Patrick McCartan also said the prosecution had failed to prove that Ulster Bank did not consent to multiple withdrawals of €13,600.

Sheshi Kota (40) withdrew the cash on June 12, 2012 when the bank was experiencing a computer systems fault.

The fault allowed customers of the bank to withdraw an unlimited amount of money without restriction without any reduction in their account balance.

In the space of 30 minutes Mr Kota, formerly of Batchelor's Walk, Dublin made the 23 withdrawals of cash using his Ulster bank card.

He later told gardai that he knew he didn't have the money but that he kept taking the cash. He said he considered it an overdraft and denied stealing it.

Mr Kota had pleaded not guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to 23 counts of stealing cash, the property of “Ulster Bank Ireland Ltd.” on June 22, 2012 at an Ulster Bank ATM at College Green, Dublin.

Rory Staines BL, defending, told the court that all his client had done was put his bank card in and withdrew cash. He said the systems fault was not a result of something Mr Kota did.

The bank wrote to Mr Kota in October 2012 to say his balance was unauthorised and asked him to make contact regarding repayment.

Mr Kota did not reply to this letter and in 2014 the bank made a formal complaint of theft to gardai. Mr Staines said that the bank initially treated the matter as a civil debt and were later using gardai as a debt enforcement agency. The money was repaid by Mr Kota after the garda became involved.

Judge McCartan directed the jury to find the accused not guilty on all counts. He told the jury that proving an offence of theft must include a technical proof of the existence of an entity capable of ownership.

There was evidence of various entities associated with Ulster Bank, but there was no documentary proof of a properly incorporated legal entity called “Ulster Bank Ireland Ltd.” put before the jury, he said.

The trial heard that the bank investigated 100s of cases around the systems fault and that around 30 customers were reported to gardai.

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