A credit union staff member has been dismissed after the discovery of alleged financial irregularities of up to €200,000.
Gurranabraher Credit Union (GCU) is the second credit union in Cork in less than a week to confirm it has referred investigations to both the gardaí and the Central Bank.
Last Thursday, it emerged that more than €400,000 was stolen from members’ accounts at Synergy Credit Union in Fermoy in a series of “unauthorised transactions”.
The Irish Examiner understands the latest investigation at Gurranabraher Credit Union is focussing on a staff member who was allegedly engaged in misappropriation of members’ funds for a number of years before the problem was exposed.
A statement from the credit union confirmed it has referred a matter that “arose internally” to both the gardaí and the Central Bank following an internal investigation.
However, the credit union would not elaborate on the nature of the investigation, the amount involved, or the number of accounts that may have been affected.
“This matter was identified and investigated by Gurranabraher Credit Union, and as a result of the investigation a staff member has been dismissed,” the statement said.
It said the Gurranabraher Credit Union is insured to cover such matters. The credit union said none of its 15,000-plus members has been exposed to a loss as a result of this matter, and that it had no impact on the provision of its services.
“Gurranabraher Credit Union is a financially strong and stable credit union, with over €96m in assets,” the statement said.
The Garda fraud squad confirmed it has been made aware of the allegations.
The Irish League of Credit Unions which represents affiliated credit unions said that “while any instance of this nature is extremely regrettable, such incidents remain very isolated”.
“As credit unions are democratic and fully accountable to their members, where such incidents occur, it often comes to public attention,” said an ILCU spokesperson.
“This is distinctly different to other financial institutions where such incidents may be dealt with via a closed internal process.”
The spokesperson said in recent times “credit unions have been strengthening their systems of internal control and this will continue”.
“Indeed, additional compulsory functions such as risk, compliance and internal audit have been added to the pre-existing controls,” the spokesperson said.
Con O’Leary, a member of GCU’s board of directors until his resignation on health grounds five weeks ago, said he had “no comment” to make in relation to the investigation.
Gardaí are also investigating a series of “unauthorised transactions” at Synergy Credit Union in Fermoy involving €407,442. An internal investigation found 29 member accounts had been affected.
Accountancy firm Grant Thornton was commissioned to carry out an independent investigation into the irregularities at a cost of €160,000.
The credit union said all accounts were subsequently “replenished”.
It refused to clarify if the insurance of the credit union was used to replenish the 29 affected accounts or if the original monies were recovered.
Gurranabraher Credit Union has a chequered history. It was the subject of an almost year-long investigation in 2000 by the Registrar of Friendly Societies.
The investigation raised concerns about expense claims and a €7,000 junket to Killarney for, inter alia, members of the board of directors, the supervisory committee and management. There were also concerns around bullying and harassment of staff.
In 2002, the manager and deputy manager were dismissed following “an exhaustive investigation”.
There are about 400 credit unions in Ireland and 3.5m members.
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