Tuesday, 26 May 2020

Bank of Ireland staff reluctant to testify in US cryptocurrency fraud trial

Witnesses demand to be compelled to testify in order to provide testimony in Ireland

Bank of Ireland employees have told US prosecutors investigating an alleged multibillion-dollar cryptocurrency fraud that they will testify in the trial only if US authorities make doing so “compulsory”.

Documents filed in a US court by investigators show that they believed first that the four Bank of Ireland employees, who worked on an account linked to the alleged fraud, had agreed to testify on a voluntary basis.

However, according to the letter “over the last several days, the [US] government has been informed that all four witnesses demand compulsory process in order to provide testimony in Ireland”.

The US prosecutors allege that €273 million was processed through Bank of Ireland by an American lawyer called Mark S Scott. It is their case that these funds were the product of an enormous cryptocurrency fraud, masterminded in the United States by several parties. The alleged fraud was based on a cryptocurrency called OneCoin.

The court records show that the US government has gone through a lengthy process in order to secure the testimony of the Bank of Ireland employees, including travelling to Ireland to conduct extensive interviews earlier this year. Among those who travelled to interview eight current and former bank officials were three FBI special agents.

The bank has also passed over significant volumes of email traffic to the US team, which shows Mr Scott corresponding with the bank over a €30 million transfer to the United Arab Emirates, which had prompted a series of inquiries from another bank involved in the transfer.

The prosecutors believe that the bank officials’ testimony will be vital for their case, and initially believed that all the witnesses would travel to the US.

When the bank was told that three of its employees would be called at trial, the prosecutors “received no indication that witnesses would not travel to the United States for trial preparation or trial”.

However, in September, the investigators were told that the Irish bankers would not travel. Following that, last week, “it has become clear that despite the witnesses’ previous representations that they were ‘willing’ to provide testimony, that testimony would not be voluntary, and the witnesses would testify only in response to compulsory processes”.

The US prosecutors have now made a formal request for mutual legal assistance from the Irish Government in order to secure testimony.

Asked for comment on the case, a Bank of Ireland spokesman said: “Bank of Ireland has co-operated with requests from the United States authorities for information and assistance throughout this investigation, providing documents and facilitating witness interviews.

“There has been no change to that position and such co-operation will continue in accordance with the relevant Irish legislation.

“Given the ongoing criminal proceedings in the USA involving Mr Scott, it is inappropriate for the bank to comment further.”

source: irishtimes.com

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