Monday 11 December 2017

What happened to the 15 cars worth €200,000 meant to be used as draw prizes at Rush Credit Union?

Rush Credit Union, which is at the centre of the probe Picture: Mark Condren
Rush Credit Union, which is at the centre of the probe Picture: Mark Condren
Charlie Weston

Charlie Weston

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

The cars cost €220,000 in total, and were bought locally for between €14,250 and €18,000 each. But forensic accountants at Grant Thornton, who were asked to probe the credit union, have been unable to work out who won the cars.

Serious questions now hang over the prize draws, as there are no available accounts of who entered and what was paid out. This is just one among a litany of explosive revelations of fraudulent activity, tax dodging, questionable expenses claims and the signing of blank cheques uncovered at wound-up Rush Credit Union.

The evidence emerged after the High Court agreed to appoint liquidators to the north County Dublin lender, having earlier appointed them on an interim basis.

An affidavit sworn by the head of resolution at the Central Bank, Patrick Casey, lists a catalogue of shortcomings, making it clear that Rush Credit Union was one of the most rotten financial institutions in the State.

It has emerged that it ran 15 car draws from 2010 to 2014.

"Grant Thornton have been unable to locate details of winners of previous car draws, as no information is recorded or published on Rush [Credit Union's] website," Mr Casey said.

Some €450,000 has had to be returned to members, many of whom were entered into the draw without giving their consent. Some members were entered into the draws without being told when they turned 16 years of age.

"From an initial review by the registrar of Credit Unions, it appeared that there was no detailed database of previous winners available and no income and expenditure account was maintained in relation to this," Mr Casey said in his written evidence.

The High Court was told the use of blank cheques was prevalent in the lender that operated in the Rush and Lusk areas.

Under a section headed Internal Control Weakness, Mr Casey pointed out loose arrangements for the handling of cash and bank accounts, and referred to "the use of pre-signed cheques".

The credit union's credit cards were being used for personal expenditure.

Grant Thornton, appointed by the Central Bank to probe the credit union, reported to the regulators that it had "identified a number of non-business related transactions carried out on Rush [Credit Union] credit cards."

Issues around staff pay, and travel and other expenses are also outlined by Mr Casey.

According to the documents, the credit union's auditors, FMB, notified the Central Bank in February this year of irregularities. Gardaí were called in on March 18 last.

In June, the Irish Independent reported the suspected fraudulent activity and financial mismanagement at the credit union.

Mr Casey points out that the Central Bank feared a "disorderly collapse" of the credit union after news of its issues broke.

Money laundering is also suspected at the lender, and questions have been raised about the accuracy of financial returns submitted to the registrar in the Central Bank.

Issues around the use of contractors and failures to pay tax have been reported to the Revenue Commissioners.

Charlie Weston: Nobody comes away clean from rotten mess

The president of the High Court, Mr Justice Peter Kelly, confirmed the appointment of Jim Luby and Tom Rogers of McStay Luby as liquidators, who had previously been appointed on a provisional basis.

The judge ordered that a statement of affairs of the credit union be prepared and put the case in for the High Court examiners list in early January.

He also said there should be a continuation of his earlier order providing for the redaction of sensitive material in court documents which the Central Bank prepared in its application for the winding up.

The court heard previously one of the reasons for the redactions was that criminal prosecutions may be brought arising from the probes.

Irish Independent

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