Thursday 19 October 2017

Ulster 'withheld thousands' from the Revenue

Bank accused of 'asset-stripping' viable businesses

People walk past Ulster Bank headquarters in Dublin
People walk past Ulster Bank headquarters in Dublin

ULSTER Bank has been accused of withholding hundreds of thousands of euro from the Revenue.

The Sunday Independent has also learnt that the beleaguered bank has also been fined for breaching 'basic' banking rules designed to prevent terrorists using its services to launder money.

Ulster Bank was at the centre of another controversy last week when debit and credit cards failed to work for thousands of customers.

Last week the Sunday Independent published explosive allegations from a whistleblower who claimed the bank 'took out' viable businesses in order to improve its own financial standing.

And now it has emerged that some business people are taking legal action against the bank for withholding VAT payments due to the Revenue, forcing them to come up with the money themselves.

"I just couldn't believe what the bank was doing," a Dublin-based businessman involved in one of the actions told the Sunday Independent.

"I never thought a bank would take money that was due to the State and they didn't seem to care when I raised it.

"I had done a deal with them (Ulster Bank) whereby they would directly receive rental incomes from the properties. They appeared happy and so was I because the properties were doing well.

"The rental money included VAT. The tenants paid the VAT as part of the rental agreement in the normal way but when I went to the bank to get the VAT element of the payments, I was told I wasn't getting it. I was told I had to pay that myself," he added.

The €40,000 bill was paid by the businessman from his own funds. But he claimed worse was to follow as the bank "put my lights out".

He added: "They stopped all my credit, I couldn't operate the retail businesses without credit and I couldn't pay the wages. Fifteen people lost their jobs in a good and viable separate business.

"To make matters worse I didn't know they had cleaned me out. I had written a cheque for a medical appointment and that was the first I knew I'd been hit when I got a call to say the cheque had bounced.

"I had €27,000 in my personal account and when I checked, I was €17,000 overdrawn. Ulster Bank had taken €44,000 out of the account and never even told me.

"To add insult to injury they are pursuing me for the expense of an overdraft they created without notice."

The VAT allegations also emerged from several other businesspeople involved in legal disputes with the bank.

One businessman alleges Ulster Bank withheld more than €400,000 in VAT from the Revenue. His lawyers will make a formal complaint to the Revenue tomorrow.

The businessmen involved in both cases are due to meet top British government adviser Lawrence Tomlinson in Ireland in January.

The Sunday Independent has learnt that between 20 and 30 Ulster Bank customers who lost businesses in recent years and who blamed the bank for their downfall will take part in the meeting.

Mr Tomlinson published a report last month in which he alleged Ulster Bank and its parent company RBS deliberately closed down viable businesses in order to earn extra revenues for the bank.

The bank is 82pc owned by the British taxpayer and Mr Tomlinson advises UK Business Secretary Vince Cable.

Meanwhile, the Sunday Independent has learnt that Ulster Bank and its parent company RBS was fined more than €7m for failing to monitor international transactions, a breach of anti-terror laws designed to stop al-Qaeda from money-laundering.

Britain's Financial Services Authority issued the fine in August 2010.

In its report, it found that Ulster Bank had failed to implement even basic procedures.

Among the breaches was the taking of deposits without carrying out personal security 'KYC' checks – Know Your Customer checks.

Ulster Bank refused to respond to a series of questions put to it by the Sunday Independent this weekend.

A spokeswoman for Revenue said the organisation wasn't currently aware of the VAT allegations, but said it would welcome contact from anyone who believed taxes had been withheld.

GREG HARKIN

Sunday Independent

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