Banker kept files separate



A BANK manager accused of fraud often visited his elderly nursing home clients and kept their files separately in his office, the Lismore District Court heard yesterday.

Former South Tweed Heads Tweed City branch Commonwealth Bank manager Graham Higgins is charged with fraud over nearly $80,000 belonging to Terranora Village Nursing Home resident Doreen Loder.

Yesterday the court was played a taped interview between Commonwealth Bank fraud investigators and Higgins.

Higgins told the investigators he had several nursing home clients and kept the elderly women's files separate from the rest of the bank's customer files because: "They were just a few investment clients that had unfinished business ... It was purely for the service, the convenience."

Higgins claimed he visited Mrs Loder at the Terranora nursing home in 2001 where she handed him a cheque for $78,303 to invest in a fixed term deposit account.

In the taped interview, Higgins claimed Ms Loder had changed her mind the next morning and later that day a mystery woman arrived at the Tweed City Commonwealth Bank branch with a hand-written note from Mrs Loder.

The note listed eight names by first initials and surnames to whom cheques for written out for $8,600 were to be drawn.

Higgins also handed more than $9,000 in cash to the woman, the tape revealed.

The alleged note, Mrs Loder's bank file and all of Higgins' bank manager diaries dating back to 1998 have all disappeared, the court heard.

"How often does your branch lose entire files?" investigators asked.

"Very rarely," Higgins replied.

Higgins also described a "stream of people" arriving at the branch to cash in their cheques, including one B. Hickey.

Around 40 minutes after cashing that $8,600 cheque, a new cheque with an identical number was purchased by B. Hickey for $8,000 - made out to Higgins' stockbroking firm.

"I haven't got an explanation," Higgins said of the identical cheques.

The trial continues on Monday.



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