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Sunday 22 April 2018

Retired garda told bank fraud was 'his fault'

No apology from Ulster Bank over lost €1,800

A pedestrian crosses a road outside the headquarters of Ulster Bank.
A pedestrian crosses a road outside the headquarters of Ulster Bank.

Greg Harkin

A retired garda, swindled out of hundreds of euro when his Ulster Bank current account was raided, has warned other customers to challenge bank officials if it happens to them.

The former detective called in gardai when the Ulster Bank branch said he was to blame when €1,800 went missing from his account.

He was later reimbursed but alleged he never received an apology over the incident.

The retired garda, who spent 40 years in the force and had investigated dozens of theft and fraud cases, says he believes he only forced the bank to back down "because they knew I wasn't a fool".

He spoke out after reading in the Sunday Independent last week about how Ulster Bank fired a whistleblower who exposed a colleague for stealing €47,000.

"My case was different in that I was the one who was having the finger pointed at me," said the 72-year-old pensioner. "I had gone to use a cash machine at a garage one afternoon and it wouldn't dispense any cash so I called the bank later that day," he said.

"I was assured it was just a glitch and there was nothing wrong with my account; but I just said to them that I was about to go to Croatia for the following fortnight on holidays with my wife and that I wouldn't be using my account whilst away.

"I came home two weeks later to find that three €600 withdrawals were made on consecutive days and that a total of €1,800 was missing."

He alleged that when he rang his branch he was told that he must have compromised his own security.

"This was a joint account and a card in my wife's name was used on three different days at a casino in Portugal," said the former officer.

"I knew our security had not been breached as my wife had her own account and she had never even used her joint account card. It had been put away in a safe place and was still there under lock and key.

"I told the Ulster Bank that this was their issue. I even got a call from their security people in Scotland and a man from there repeated what I had been told in the branch; that it was my fault.

"When he again insisted I was responsible I did what any person would do and I called my local station.

"I made a statement to Dun Laoghaire garda station that I had been the victim of theft. It was only then that Ulster Bank changed its tune.

"Gardai went to the branch in Dun Laoghaire and were then told that I was not a victim after all, that the bank had been the victim of the theft and they didn't wish to pursue a criminal complaint.

"I found the whole episode very disturbing. Ulster Bank never apologised and never even attempted to apologise. When my next bank statement arrived in the post, the withdrawals which I had seen online were no longer there. They had simply disappeared, erased forever as if they hadn't happened." He says he has no doubt that calling in gardai -- and his experience as a detective -- helped change the bank's attitude.

"I would encourage anyone in similar circumstances to contact gardai. If a financial institution says that you are the victim of the crime -- and not the institution -- call gardai and make a formal complaint."

Ulster Bank has refused to comment on any Sunday Independent queries for the past five weeks.

Meanwhile, the Sunday Independent has learnt that Lawrence Tomlinson, the adviser to British Business Secretary Vince Cable, has been corresponding with dozens of Irish customers of Ulster Bank over allegations the bank wrongly forced them out of business.

Mr Tomlinson has agreed to meet them in Belfast later this month as part of an ongoing British Government investigation into Ulster Bank and its parent company Royal Bank of Scotland.

Irish Independent

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