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Manor Park bank woman ‘stole £20k from customer’

PUBLISHED: 16:30 07 December 2011

A bank clerk plundered £20,000 from a customer’s account in a series of bogus transactions, a court heard.

Tharini Navaratnarajah, 30, of Third Avenue, Manor Park, abused her position as a trusted member of staff to create phantom standing orders on a stranger’s account, it is claimed.

She is said to have arranged for the cash to be transferred into accounts belonging to bed and breakfast owner Hossein Kazemi Mehrabadi, 44.

The pair practised their deception as part of a wider plan to raise funds for a criminal gang, the Old Bailey heard.

Two rogue transactions took place at Barclays in Forest Gate on June 2 last year when Navaratnarajah used a colleague’s computer to try to cover her tracks, said Ian Paton, prosecuting.

“She worked as a trusted member of staff,” he said. “But on that day she took the opportunity to access the workstation of another employee who had gone on a cigarette break.

“She set up the two transactions to Mr Mehrabadi’s account and, on the face of it, to the bank’s eyes, they thought it was her colleague.”

A total of £10,000 ended up in Mehrabadi’s current account, while another £10,000 was sent to his wife’s account, the court heard.

Over the next few days he is said to have set up a new savings account into which he transferred £6,500 and withdrawn £1,000 in cash from his local Barclays branch in Bishop’s Stortford, Hertfordshire.

An unnamed man also tried to withdraw £9,000 from a branch in the City of London, it is said.

Bank bosses became suspicious, said Mr Paton, and police were summoned and that man was arrested in possession of money. But more significantly he was found to have Mehrabadi’s bank account card, it is said.

An investigation began and CCTV footage from the Forest Gate branch showed Navaratnajarah using her colleague’s machine at the time the standing orders were made, the court heard.

Mr Paton said: “Mr Mehrabadi and Miss Navaratnarajah are in fact the cannon fodder, the foot soldiers, in a criminal gang.

“There are others who, because of their loyalties, these two defendants won’t name and shame and have chosen to brazen it out.”

Both Navaratnajarah and Mehrabadi told the police they had been “innocent dupes”, he said.

Navaratnajarah claimed she had been threatened by knife-wielding “boys with hoodies” who had confronted her outside the bank and later placed a note in her handbag instructing her to make the transactions.

Mehrabadi said he handed over his bank cards, PIN numbers and statements to a stranger at Stratford Station on the pretext of arranging a £20,000 loan for his business, jurors heard.

Navaratnarajah denies fraud by abuse of position, while Mehrabadi, from Bishop’s Stortford, denies acquiring criminal property and dishonestly retaining a wrongful credit. The trial continues.


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