Belfast Telegraph

£2.3m fraud case thrown out as prosecutors miss court deadline

By Staff Reporter

A case which relates to the alleged defrauding of £2.3m by an office manager from her employer has been thrown out, after the PPS failed to meet a court deadline.

The case, which is understood to be the first of its kind due to the vast number of charges and amounts involved, relates to a Co Tyrone woman who was accused of fraud by abuse of position.

She has been granted anonymity by the court due to a risk of suicide if her identity is published.

Aged in her 40s, she worked for some time for a Mid-Ulster manufacturing company, who likewise cannot be named in case it would lead to the identification of the defendant.

She is accused of making 607 fraudulent transactions involving vast amounts of cash into two bank accounts held in her name.

The offences were alleged to have begun on January 30, 2008 when a transaction of £10,000 was made to the accused's account. Just over a fortnight later it is alleged that £12,250 was taken.

This continued on a monthly basis - sometimes multiple times per month - until February 18, 2016 when £2,965 was allegedly transferred.

Court papers show varying amounts being transferred on the years ranging from around £500 per transaction. Most are in the region of £2,000 to £5,000, although 2008 appears to have some of the highest figures, including the overall maximum of £22,000 allegedly taken in one transaction.

The case was on track for a committal hearing to formally transfer to crown court for trial back in March, which was then postponed until April.

That date too was not met and it was explained the original prosecutor overseeing the case had left the PPS. His replacement wanted time to become fully acquainted with the case given its vastness and complexity.

This was followed in May by a lawyer for the prosecution providing an update advising there had been a consultation with a senior barrister and a forensic accountant had been instructed to provide a specialist report. This will not be available until the end of this month.

At the time District Judge John Meehan said: "This is the first time the court has been told of instruction of the forensic accountant by the PPS. This is a new diversion which suggest the case will not now be ready until the end of June."

He added: "It is overwhelmingly clear the PPS have failed to respond to previously raised concerns and failed to recognise this is a complex matter ... The court's time has been wasted. The preliminary enquiry will proceed on the next occasion or the case will be dismissed."

The case duly returned to court yesterday and a lawyer appearing for the prosecution advised the position remains the same. He applied for all matters to be withdrawn to go by way of formal report.

That does not necessarily end the matter as the case remains in the hands of the PPS who may re-instate the charges at a later date.

Despite the defendant no longer being charged with any offences and released of all bail terms, the anonymity order remains in place.

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