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23rd February 2024, 21:13

RGP Officer says over €660,000 cash went into personal bank accounts in Spain linked to defendant in fraud trial

Published by GBC News

An RGP officer has told the Supreme Court that more than €660,000 cash was deposited into personal bank accounts in Spain linked to the defendant in a fraud case. Gillian Balban denies all charges.

RGP Lead Investigator gives evidence

Detective Inspector Mark Schembri was the lead investigator in the case against the 51 year-old former Head of Retail at Natwest Gibraltar, now the defendant, Gillian Balban.

She's accused of fraud and false accounting between 2011 and 2017.

The defendant allegedly covered up a £2 million discrepancy in the bank’s cash reserves and took euros in exchange for IOU slips – with these accumulating to €600,000.

Witness, Detective Schembri told the court that the bank's records only go back to 2011 and at this point there was already a £1.45 million gap in the banks reserves that grew to £2 million by the time it was discovered – some nine months after Ms Balban was made redundant by Natwest.

On Friday at the Supreme Court, Mr Schembri revealed the extent of the investigation into personal finances relating to Ms Balban.

He said that €667,000 cash was deposited into personal bank accounts in Spain between 2009 and 2018. This was reportedly done in small sums in the hundreds and thousands over the years. The jury have been shown some deposits into Spanish bank accounts.

Detective Schembri told the court that declared income from Ms Balban and her husband was considered, but that the amount was above and beyond what salaries could explain.

Ms Balban was an owner of local restaurant - now closed - Casa Brachetto.

The detective told the court he had found emails from the defendant asking for Euros to be prepared in separate envelopes by staff at the Natwest Corral Road branch in November 2013.

Spanish police looked into four Casa Brachetto employees wages for that same period. The amounts allegedly match those that had been requested in envelopes from bank staff by Ms Balban.

2019 RGP interviews with Gillian Balban played in court

The jury has spent six weeks hearing allegations against the defendant. For the first time they have heard from her in recordings of interviews with the police from the year she was arrested - 2019.

In one of four interviews played in court, the defendant tells police that she would take euros and leave signed debit slips.

She describes the practice of leaving debit slips as used by bank staff often, claiming employees would even hand these to Juan the lottery man in exchange for tickets. She says Juan would queue up at the bank and debit the accounts of employees with the slips for his payment.

In the 2019 interview, the RGP put to Ms Balban that €600,000 worth of IOU’s had accumulated at the Corral Road branch foreign till. She told the police she couldn’t understand how.

In the same interview, Detective Schembri put to her that there are repeated transactions where money is moved. Ms Balban raises her voice, asking how the detective expects her to justify and paint a picture of what has happened without providing her with the relevant documentation to understand the transactions.

He also accused her of pocketing cheques that should have been passed on to the bank. She states that under no circumstance has she done that.

The interview also reflects Ms Balban being asked by police what her salary at the bank was. She says that due to bonuses and other factors she doesn’t know.

Christian Rocca KC, acting for the Crown, has concluded his examination. Detective Inspector Mark Schembri will be cross examined by defence lawyer Sir Peter Caruana KC on Monday.