Halifax Theft Victims Want Their Money

Article excerpt

Byline: By ROBIN TURNER Western Mail

Pressure is growing on financial giant Halifax to compensate customers who lost money to crooked branch manager Graham Price. The 58-year-old married man stole pounds 10m, then left an 'IOU' note for astonished Halifax auditors in the vast, empty safe at the branch he ran in Gowerton, Swansea.

Price, who spent much of the stolen cash gambling on horses, was a Halifax agent who ran the bank's counter service at Gowerton. In 2002, the Halifax voted him 'regional agent of the year'.

One investor with Price, Suzie Mills who lives in Honiton, Devon, claims to have lost pounds 500,000.

She said, 'I believed I had pounds 500,000 safely invested with him. But without warning the Halifax froze my web account and my current account and sent me a statement showing a nil balance.'

Many investors are too embarrassed to be named but one said yesterday she contemplated suicide after losing thousands to Price.

About 85 people are thought to have lost money.

Gower MP Martin Caton and local AM Edwina Hart have investigated Price's role and discovered that agents do not need any qualifications.

And their inquiries have found it is up to employers to monitor their activities.

Mr Caton may now raise the issue in Parliament and both politicians have asked the Halifax 'for answers'.

Assembly Minister for Social Justice Ms Hart said that as Price reportedly started taking cash in 2001, there must be questions over why it was not until 2004 that Halifax auditors began their investigation.

She said, 'Agents do not require specific professional qualifications although anyone registered as an independent financial adviser (IFA) would be considered in their application.

'In addition, as agents are not allowed to give advice on Halifax products they do not require a compliance certificate from Halifax and Halifax are not required to monitor their compliance status with the Financial Services Authority (FSA). …