€400k stolen from credit union in Cork

More than €400,000 was stolen from member accounts in a Cork credit union in a series of “unauthorised transactions”.

Management at Synergy Credit Union, based in Fermoy, Co Cork, confirmed it had discovered the “irregularities” during an internal review in September of last year. It said all accounts had now been “replenished”.

The gardaí and the Central Bank were subsequently informed. Accountancy firm Grant Thornton was commissioned to carry out an independent investigation into the irregularities.

A statement issued on behalf of the credit union confirmed “an individual” had accepted responsibility, and co-operated with the investigation. However, it is unclear if this person is subject to any possible criminal probe.

The credit union’s approximately 16,200 members were told of the investigation at the end of the address of chairman Denis Granville which accompanied the recently circulated annual report for 2016.

Mr Granville confirmed “unauthorised transactions” had occurred on dozens of accounts amounting to €407,442 and that the cost of investigation and legal fees came to over €160,000.

“I must inform the membership that during an internal review in September 2016, management identified potential irregularities which warranted further investigation.

“I wish to assure you that the board of directors has taken all necessary steps to ensure the matter was fully resolved in a timely manner. The Central Bank of Ireland and all relevant authorities were immediately notified.

“The independent investigation, which has been completed, identified a total of 29 member accounts and identified net unauthorised transactions on these accounts in the sum of €407,442,” he said.

He then moved to assure all members their money was safe.

“All accounts have been replenished to their correct balances with no member incurring any financial loss. The credit union has insurance in place and notification has been made to the insurers on the matter.

“The associated professional accounting and legal fees for investigation and review of this matter amounted to €160,712. It is expected these costs will be covered by the policy of insurance.”

In a statement to the Irish Examiner, CEO of Synergy Credit Union Martina Cotter said all accounts affected had been “replenished” and “all appropriate steps were taken to resolve the matter swiftly”.

“The credit union is insured to deal with such matters and no member’s savings were lost. Synergy Credit Union would like to reassure members that their savings are safe and secure and continue to be protected by the Government Deposit Guarantee Scheme,” she said.

The Irish Examiner put a series of questions to the credit union, including:

  • Was the insurance policy of the credit union used to replenish the 29 affected accounts or were the original monies recovered?
  • Over what period of time did the “unauthorised transactions” take place?
  • Is a Garda inquiry ongoing into the matter?

Ms Cotter declined to answer the specific questions but said one person had accepted responsibility and co-operated.

“As there are still various third-party processes underway, we cannot comment in any greater detail on this matter, except to say that an individual has accepted responsibility, co-operated with the investigation in full.”

She said this individual was no longer working at the credit union.

Ms Cotter also said the credit union was operating as normal and performing strongly.

The credit union’s annual report for 2016 shows that combined savings increased by €3,642,348 to over €53.2m. Assets increased by 7.3% to €62.4m.

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