Tuesday 23 January 2018

Expect more revelations of dodgy goings-on to push our trust to the limit

(Stock picture)
(Stock picture)
Charlie Weston

Charlie Weston

Fraud by staff at credit unions has the potential to do immense damage to the movement.

Trust is a brittle commodity, and it will be shattered if reports keep emerging of insider fraud at the much-loved institutions.

In the last while, four cases of money missing from members' accounts have emerged.

In the latest episode, gardaí have been called in to St Anthony's & Claddagh in Galway over a suspected fraud case.

It comes just days after it emerged that money went missing at Gurranabraher Credit Union in Cork.

The amount involved is understood to be around €200,000.

But as much again may have to be spent on forensic accountants to probe the full extent of the crime.

Last week, it emerged its county neighbour, Synergy in Fermoy, has also called in the gardaí, and had to have a huge probe carried out after €400,000 went missing.

But the daddy of them all is Rush Credit Union.

Last summer, this newspaper revealed a series of fraudulent activities at the now-closed north Co Dublin lender. Some €1.3m has had to be set aside to cover the cost of that fraud.

The Central Bank told the High Court that car draws at Rush were rigged.

Forensic accountants probing bust Rush Credit Union were unable to work out what happened to 15 vehicles that were supposed to be prizes in draws.

The safe at Rush is also understood to have been used to stash cash away from the tax authorities.

Now, a fourth credit union finds itself in the spotlight for the wrong reasons.

To have missing members' savings at one credit union could be regarded as a misfortune.

But when it reaches four it starts to look reckless.Before the explosive revelations at Rush it had been a while since there were reports of credit union fraud.

One explanation for the sudden outbreak of so many insider frauds is a new, much more intensive auditing and compliance system at credit unions.

Since the introduction of Central Bank regulations in 2012, all credit unions have to have an internal auditor and an internal compliance officer.

These functions are only now starting to operate effectively.

In many cases the addition of these positions has led to the detection of more internal frauds that had been going for years.

If that is correct, we can expect more reports of dodgy goings-on in credit unions.

That will really test the trust the State's three million members have in some 283 active credit unions.

Irish Independent

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