Managers at Natwest bank refused to help prosecute an employee to avoid ‘reputational damage’ after two elderly customers were conned out of £180,000, the Old Bailey heard.
Tariq Aslam, 36, and Ajit Atwal, 26, targeted wealthy older women, aged 73 and 91, before forging their signatures to gain access to their accounts.
Both then transferred around £90,000 to each of their own bank accounts before suspicions were raised.
They both walked free with suspended sentences after the judge was told they were not the architects of the fraud.
Aslam and Atwal were handed confidential information from a bank insider who told them exactly how much cash was in the accounts.
A female employee, whose details were used to access the accounts of both women without any official reason, was arrested as part of the probe into the scam.
She was sacked but no charges were ever brought after Natwest, owned by the Royal Bank of Scotland, made it clear it would not support the prosecution.
A statement read out in court said: “I am authorised by Natwest to formally withdraw allegations of theft against [the employee] (I thought that is what the CPS decided).
“I have made this decision because of the affect it could have on other staff and reputational damage to the organisation.”
Black cab driver Aslam opened a business account under the name ‘Patel Builders’ along with a personal account at Natwest in Reading in July 2013.
An application apparently signed by the 73-year-old victim on 22 July was sent with instructions to add Aslam to the victim’s account, which was authorised by a Natwest employee.
After several ‘test’ transactions for small sums, just under £90,000 was transferred into his account on 21 October 2013.
He then visited the Slough High Street branch where he transferred £45,000 into Atwal’s account before taking out £7,000 in cash.
The bank froze the accounts and just £7,000 of the money was not recovered.
In an almost identical scam, Atwal opened a Natwest business account on 13 July 2013 linked to his personal account.
Again, the bank received an application purporting to have been signed by a 91-year-old woman, granting him access to her account.
“It’s clear somebody within the bank has been providing information to the organisers because the details provided on that form are were correct and the signature closely mirrored hers,’ said the judge, Recorder Michael Wood QC.
Atwal transferred just over £90,000 into his account, none of which was recovered by the bank.
The judge told the pair: “I’m probably doing the wrong thing, I hope I’m not” as he sentenced them both to two years imprisonment, suspended for two years.
“Neither of you were the organisers. Someone within the bank was providing confidential client information.
“If either of those two had been before the court they would be going to prison for a very, very long time indeed.”
Atwal was ordered to pay the full £90,904.43 he defrauded from Natwest in compensation after the court heard he had “friends” who had provided funds.