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Former bank employee embezzled 8 million euros: 3 years partially suspended sentence

Former bank employee embezzled 8 million euros: 3 years partially suspended sentence
The pensioner had to answer to the Salzburg Regional Court. (Symbolic image)

The now 62-year-old pensioner was sentenced on Tuesday by the Salzburg Regional Court to three years’ suspended prison sentence, one year of which was unconditional, for breach of trust, embezzlement and forgery. A 51-year-old acquaintance of the woman was sentenced to 3.5 years’ unconditional prison sentence for complicity in breach of trust and forgery.

The two defendants, who confessed fully and remorsefully, accepted the verdict and also the private party claims. However, since public prosecutor Carina Wallner has not made a statement, the verdicts are not legally binding. The first defendant has no previous convictions, and the second defendant already has a criminal record. The sentence for the two defendants ranged from one to ten years in prison.

Customers invented

When the malpractice was uncovered in 2021, the long-time employee of the Salzburger Landes-Hypothekenbank, which is now owned by the Raiffeisenlandesbank Oberösterreich, was dismissed without notice. From 2014 onwards, she is said to have taken out 151 loans in the name of non-existent customers, thereby cheating the bank out of 3.8 million euros. The money is said to have gone to the co-defendant, now former entrepreneur. According to the indictment, the woman also diverted a total of 4.2 million euros from 2006 onwards, which had been entrusted to her for investment by existing customers.

For the brazen fraud with the fake loans, the entrepreneur at the time is said to have sent her false German identity cards and fake salary certificates from fictitious customers. The loan opening documents were signed with fake signatures from these non-existent customers. “The first defendant then opened a current account and a credit account using these false documents,” the indictment states.

Fake deposit confirmations

Furthermore, the first defendant is said to have embezzled a total of 3.53 million euros that 17 customers had invested in securities. The woman managed these customers’ securities accounts and sent them fake deposit confirmations and false deposit and withdrawal receipts. She is also said to have sold securities belonging to a single customer without an order. The bank suffered losses of 660,000 euros as a result.

When the case came to light during internal bank audits, the financial institution announced that the affected customers would not suffer any damage. Their claims were also fully met, as a victim’s representative explained at the trial.

“She now lives at subsistence level”

The two accused pleaded guilty and apologized for the crime before the jury presided over by Judge Martina Pfarrkirchner. The mystery of where the embezzled money went was not solved during the trial. When the presiding judge asked the ex-bank employee about the motive and whereabouts of the money, her defense attorney, Kurt Jelinek, immediately took the floor. “She cannot and does not want to say anything about it,” explained Jelinek. The woman had made amends for a considerable amount of damage. “She is now living on the breadline.” Jelinek had already said at the beginning of the trial that his client would not testify on the matter itself. “I plead completely guilty, I am sorry,” were her own words.

When asked where the money went, the second defendant’s defense attorney, Christoph Hirsch, replied that not all of the 3.8 million euros had reached his client. Documents were also missing. “But he will take responsibility for this damage.” The former businessman himself said that the crime had “developed out of the company’s need.” The whole thing had taken on a “dynamic of its own, like a snowball,” and he had used most of the money for the company, which has since gone bankrupt. His defense attorney emphasized that the man had turned himself in to the bank when the case became public. In doing so, he had contributed to finding out the truth.

Several mitigating factors

In the case of the first defendant, the jury considered the comprehensive confession, the previous clean record, the advanced age, the “not inconsiderable” compensation for damages and the willingness to make their property available as mitigating factors. With regard to the second defendant, the comprehensive confession and the partial compensation for damages were also considered mitigating factors. Due to the previous convictions, there was no possibility of a partial pardon, explained the chairperson.

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