Belfast Telegraph

Security tightened at Belfast City Hall after £300,000 scam

BY VICTORIA O'HARA

Security checks have been tightened by Belfast City Council after it was targeted in a sophisticated scam resulting in £300,000 of ratepayers' money being taken by fraudsters.

During an emergency meeting held yesterday, senior managers confirmed to the council's audit panel that it was the victim of "organised crime activity" which had resulted in the external fraud.

Council bosses also told the panel that other organisations had been targeted in a similar way outside of Northern Ireland by experienced criminals.

They said the ongoing investigation was being conducted by police outside of the jurisdiction and gave assurances that such an incident was "unlikely to happen again".

As reported in the Belfast Telegraph last week, two members of staff have since been suspended pending an investigation.

However, there is no suspicion of any council staff member being involved in the fraud.

A spokeswoman for the PSNI said the investigation was ongoing. No arrests have been made.

Gavin Robinson, chairman of the policy and resources committee, said: "Where the council is notified of a change in the bank account details there is somebody involved in that process, then there is somebody supervising that process and now there is a third level.

"A more senior official will now oversee any such change or request for change like that to make sure it is verified."

It is understood the scam involved fraudsters who contacted a legitimate contractor who had already carried out work for the council. They then accessed outstanding invoices.

The fraudsters then went to the council with the documentation and sought payment for the work, using bogus bank details.

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