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Cyprus

Bank employee detained in connection with theft (update 2)

A bank employee was remanded in custody for eight days in Nicosia on Tuesday for allegedly taking almost €400,000 over the last five years from relatives, friends and co-workers for a supposed investment plan.

The woman, 36, in a white top and black trousers, wearing gold flip-flops and sporting manicured fingernails, stood silently in the court as proceedings took place.

Investigating officer sergeant Athina Pambori said the suspect had admitted in a voluntary statement to having taken money since March 2011 from two groups of people, her co-workers at Piraeus bank and her friends and family.

To the first group she had lied, saying her husband, also a bank employee at Hellenic, had successfully donated bone marrow, something she said the bank had rewarded him for by allowing him access to a high-interest account in which they could invest.

To her friends and relatives, according to her statement, she had also lied, saying due to her low salary but high work performance she had been rewarded with the right to take part in a high interest investment plan they could share in.

According to her statement, she took a total of €897,000 from 12 co-workers of which she still owed €275,000 to six people, while from her friends and family she took €1,156,000 with not more than €500,000 still to be returned.

Pambori said that in order to persuade people to part with their money she had prepared fake documents which she presented to them, and has admitted to them being forged.

Bank accounts in the suspect’s name have zero or minus balances, the annual inflow into them larger than would be expected with continuous deposits and withdrawals and a large number of transfers abroad.

Her former employer, Piraeus Bank sacked her less than a week ago following a disciplinary investigation.

The woman’s defence lawyer, in an attempt to minimise or avoid his client being held, told the court she had cooperated with the police, giving a voluntary statement and was at their disposal for any clarifications.

She had a child under three years of age and only one report, and a verbal one at that, was made by a complainant of her trying to influence a witness, according to the lawyer.

The judge said the offences being investigated were serious and the fact that statements were due to be taken from people close to her family and work environment warranted her being held as it was possible witnesses could be influenced.

Her being the mother of a young child and cooperating with the police did not outweigh the seriousness of the crimes being investigated with statements taken so far from complainants accounting for €397,000 taken. Police however, haven not ruled out the amount being much higher.

Pambori told the court that enquiries were at an early stage with 10 statements having been taken and around another 50 expected. She said she was not in a position to say how long the case would take to investigate.

Pambori said the suspect’s husband, close family members and co-workers were expected to give testimony. This could be influenced and evidence could be destroyed, if the suspects was released, she said.

Bank accounts were due to be scrutinised as were computers found in the suspect’s home following a search.

Enquiries are due to be made into the bank accounts of the suspect as well as companies set up and possibly used to transfer funds abroad.

The woman, who was arrested on Monday, is said to have presented people with the plan, persuading them to invest their money for a high return.

Four people told police that the woman persuaded them in March 2011 to part with around €397,000 in total, funds that have not been returned.

The authorities have not ruled out the possibility that other people may have also given money to the bank employee for high-return investments.

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