Belfast Telegraph

Friday 18 April 2014

Ulster Bank worker may have stolen £500k, tribunal reveals

An Ulster Bank employee may have stolen up to £500,000 from the bank's vault
An Ulster Bank employee may have stolen up to £500,000 from the bank's vault

An employee of the Ulster Bank who was known for his gambling and extravagant lifestyle may have stolen up to £500,000 from the bank's vault, an employment tribunal has revealed.

The details emerged in a successful case brought by a whistleblower. It was reported last night that the whistleblower tried to warn managers about the other man, but ended up being scapegoated when the shortfall in cash was discovered.

As a result, he has been awarded almost £29,000 in compensation.

The tribunal referred to the whistle-blower as AB, while the alleged thief is called Mr P. Both men worked at the bank's cash centre where AB was a team leader. He approached his line manager as far back as 2009 because he had become suspicious of Mr P's extravagant gambling lifestyle and the control he exerted over others gaining access to the cash vault.

AB also said that Mr P ran a work-based gambling syndicate, travelled to Las Vegas for gambling twice a year and had "a drinking issue".

The whistleblower's concerns were not acted on, so he raised them again in December 2011.

As a result, a detailed audit of the cash in the vault took place that revealed a shortfall of £565,000. All four people who worked in the cash centre were then suspended, including AB and Mr P.

Mr P was investigated and was ultimately accused by the bank of the unauthorised removal of £500,000 in cash from the vault and with having stolen money.

The tribunal described how the bank's investigation found that "significant amounts of cash" were being paid into Mr P's personal Ulster Bank accounts.

The BBC said the tribunal did not disclose if any money was repaid, nor if Mr P has been reported to police, nor if he is facing any criminal charges.

Despite his role in uncovering what was going on, AB did not receive any credit – instead there was an attempt to implicate him.

AB's initial suspension related to an alleged failure to make due diligence checks in relation to his signature on a cash transfer voucher. The tribunal found that suspension was reasonable, as it formed part of an investigation.

However, it concluded that a second round of disciplinary action in July 2012 was unreasonable and that an attempt was being made to scapegoat AB.

AB was not allowed to return to work for six months. He also suffered from depression as a result.

The tribunal noted that AB was being dealt with in the middle of the bank's IT meltdown in the summer of 2012 and that one consideration for managers in that period was to have regard to "possible adverse comment and publicity".

It said the "overarching concern" of senior management in this period seemed to be about the reputation of the bank and their focus was "to try to pin the blame on an individual because his signature appeared on a voucher".

There is no suggestion of misconduct by any other staff in the cash centre.

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