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Sunday 19 November 2017

Fresh credit union scandal as €400,000 stolen from accounts

Some 29 accounts had money taken from them without the authorisation of the members.
(Stock picture)
Some 29 accounts had money taken from them without the authorisation of the members. (Stock picture)
Charlie Weston

Charlie Weston

Gardai are investigating the theft of €400,000 from a Co Cork credit union. Fermoy-based Synergy Credit Union insists all the money taken from members' accounts has been returned, and the person responsible for the theft is co-operating with an investigation.

The woman responsible is understood to be a long-serving staff member, who has now left the lender.

It comes months after Rush Credit Union in Co Dublin was shut down after a series of fraudulent activities was discovered.

Chief executive of Synergy Martina Cotter confirmed in a statement that it had discovered "irregularities on a small number of member accounts" last September.

Consultancy Grant Thornton was commissioned to undertake an investigation.

Ms Cotter said: "The credit union also informed all relevant authorities as soon as the matter came to light, including An Garda Síochána, and all appropriate steps were taken to resolve the matter swiftly."

She said the internal probe by the credit union has now finished and affected accounts have been replenished to their correct balance.

"The credit union is insured to deal with such matters and no members' savings were lost," she added.

The 16,200 members of the Co Cork lender are due to attend its annual general meeting next Thursday, an event that is now expected to be a stormy affair.

The discovery of the theft has delayed plans to merge Synergy with St Patrick's CU in Cork city. The combination of the two lenders would lead to a body with assets of €73m and 17,000 members.

It is understood that the theft amounts to €407,442, with Synergy Credit Union having to spend another €160,000 on the probe into the missing money.

Some 29 accounts had money taken from them without the authorisation of the members.

The individual who is understood to be responsible for the loss of the money has accepted her role in it.

Ms Cotter said: "We cannot comment in any greater detail, except to say that an individual has accepted responsibility, co-operated with the investigation in full and is no longer employed by the credit union."

The CEO of the credit union reassured members that their savings are secure, and continue to be protected by the State Deposit Guarantee Scheme.

She stressed that Synergy Credit Union has a very strong balance sheet with reserves in excess of 14pc, which is above what is required by the Central Bank. Membership continues to grow and now stands at over 16,200. The credit union continues to operate as normal.

The Central Bank said it was aware of a number of irregular transactions that have taken place in Synergy Credit Union.

Irish Independent

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