Belfast Telegraph

Police probe alleged £400k scam at Belfast City Council

PSNI called in over bogus contractor bank account fraud

BY VICTORIA O'HARA

A MAJOR investigation has been launched by police into an alleged fraud at Belfast City Council believed to involve up to £400,000 of ratepayers' money.

The scam came to light after a company inquired about a missed payment of hundreds of thousands of pounds.

The council informed the firm it had been paid – but the money failed to appear in its bank account.

It is understood the account details of the legitimate firm had been accessed by someone posing as a council representative.

Another person acting as the contractor approached the council for payment and provided bank details. The funds were then transferred to the bogus account.

Belfast City Council would not comment on the amount of cash involved, but it is believed to be between £250,000 and £400,000.

Police confirmed they are investigating a report of fraud and inquiries are ongoing.

A council source said the public money should be recovered through insurance.

But councillors have demanded an emergency meeting, calling for "full disclosure".

Councillors also said they were angry they were not informed about the incident which involved public money. It is feared the council has become the latest target in a scam that has hit UK authorities over the past three years.

It is understood those behind the scam research firms carrying out work for councils.

They then contact the council claiming they are from the legitimate firm and say their bank details have changed.

The council is asked to alter the details and pay the money into a new account.

The council said it does not comment on individual cases involving members of staff, however it is understood at least one person who works for the council has been suspended while the investigation is carried out.

There is no suggestion that any council employee was involved in any criminality.

A spokeswoman for Belfast City Council told the Belfast Telegraph: "The council is aware of an alleged external fraud and the matter is currently being investigated by the police."

The SDLP's Pat McCarthy said: "This raises questions about the leadership of the council about what else is being withheld from councillors and how this money will be replaced.

"It's a disgrace that elected members were not informed about this and the first we knew was after being contacted by journalists.

"There needs to be full disclosure."

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