Lloyds Bank is facing a fresh police investigation of allegations of fraud against small business over a case that received the attention of chief executive António Horta-Osório and senior politicians six years ago.
2020欧洲杯体育足彩外围appAvon and Somerset Police are investigating allegations made against Lloyds by Cardiff-based property investor Kashif Shabir, who lost his business after the bank foreclosed on his loans and appointed a receiver to sell his assets in 2009.
Lloyds, which was then 43pc-owned by the state after being bailed out in the financial crisis, has dismissed claims of misconduct at its Bristol unit made by Mr Shabir and about 200 others over a decade. They claim the bank had their successful businesses revalued downwards, forced into receivership and then sold.
2020欧洲杯体育足彩外围appThe bank believes that it had no alternative but to repossess Mr Shabir’s property after he failed to make repayments and that the revaluation reflected the sharp decline of the local property market.
However, the bank’s treatment of small business customers who went bust after the bank terminated their loans was described in 2018 as “a fraud that robbed them of their business and their livelihood”, by Stephen Kerr, a former Tory MP.
The new investigation threatens to engulf its most senior bosses, including Mr Horta-Osório, the Portuguese banker, who has been paid more than £56m since joining Lloyds in 2011.
In a letter to Welsh Assembly Member Peter Black in 2014 seen by The Telegraph, Sir Vince Cable, business secretary at the time, said he had recently met Mr Horta-Osório and raised Mr Shabir’s case along with that of Alun Richards, a Welsh farmer who claimed he “lost everything” after missing loan repayments.
In the letter, printed on Business Department headed paper, Sir Vince wrote: “He [Mr Horta-Osório] assured me that he had looked into the matter personally. He said the complaints had been investigated independently at a senior level within the bank.”
Sajid Javid, the future chancellor, also wrote to Mr Horta-Osório in 2014 asking him to investigate Mr Shabir’s concerns and answer questions.
The renewed focus on the case comes as retired High Court judge Dame Linda Dobbs is already investigating what bosses knew about the HBOS Reading scam that defrauded customers and led to six people being jailed and a £46m fine for Lloyds.
2020欧洲杯体育足彩外围appLast week, Labour MP Jo Stevens told Mr Horta-Osório in a letter that the bank’s response to Mr Shabir’s allegations “reflects the same pattern of behaviour, identified by Sir Ross Cranston [in his review of HBOS Reading], in other cases where the bank now accepts its culpability”.
The police inquiry follows a review by Thames Valley Police last year following anger over the Avon and Somerset force’s conclusion there was no proof of criminal offences. It is understood the review by Thames Valley Police recommended Avon and Somerset Police investigate evidence of alleged criminality at Lloyds’ Bristol office.
2020欧洲杯体育足彩外围appA Lloyds spokesman said Mr Shabir’s allegations “have been reviewed a number of times and have been found to be completely baseless”.
He added: “Concerns in relation to a Bristol unit have been raised by third parties in the past. In each instance these concerns have been thoroughly investigated and we have not found any evidence to support them.
“Avon & Somerset Police has also reviewed a number of these allegations, with the outcomes of the investigations checked by Thames Valley Police. Of those customer allegations, one is still subject to an investigation, which is yet to conclude, but the others have all been found not to require further action.”
2020欧洲杯体育足彩外围appAn Avon and Somerset Police spokesman said the review concluded it had acted and investigated appropriately.
He added: “There was one exception where documents had not previously been seen by our force and while it was not the view of Thames Valley Police that this amounted to criminal behaviour, the recommendation was that we should consider the information presented and whether it amounted to possible criminal conduct.
“The information to consider this allegation was only provided to us at the beginning of this month and is being reviewed.”