Ulster Bank manager Colum Lewis-Canning given suspended jail term

A former Ulster Bank manager has been given a two-year suspended sentence for stealing more than £100,000.

Colum Lewis-Canning, 55, from Moneyrannel Road, Limavady, County Londonderry, took the money from a client's accounts between January 2008 and February 2009.

He befriended Portstewart businessman, William O'Neill, 64, in 2001 and persuaded him to invest in a company.

The judge has ordered him to pay his victim the arrears or face jail.

'Without permission'

Londonderry Crown Court heard how Lewis-Canning became acquainted with Mr O'Neill, a caravan park proprietor and caravans distributor, when he worked for the Bank of Ireland in Coleraine in 2001.

The following year Lewis-Canning joined the Ulster Bank and was their senior investment manager at their Strand Road branch in Derry.

He set up a property investment company called Smartinvest and Mr O'Neill agreed to invest £100,000 in the company.

In 2006 Mr O'Neill refused Lewis-Canning's request to invest a further £100,000 in the company. After that refusal, Lewis-Canning, without permission, withdrew £12,500 and a further £65,550 from the businessman's loan account in January and March 2008.

He then took another £22,500 from Mr O'Neill's corporate account in February 2009.

'Abuse his trust'

The court was told that it was the Mr O'Neill's accountant who saw the discrepancies in his accounts and that the police were then informed.

Lewis-Canning subsequently pleaded guilty to three charges of fraud by abusing his position as an investment manager with the Ulster Bank. Two other charges were left on the books.

When the property market started to collapse Lewis-Canning used Mr O'Neill's money to buy shares in the Royal Bank of Scotland, which owned the Ulster Bank. The shares were then worth between £3 and £4 but collapsed to 20p.

The judge said that Lewis-Canning had paid back £48,000 to Mr O'Neill but £52,550 was still outstanding.

He said that Lewis-Canning, who had worked in banking for 35 years, had at one time been the rising star in the banking sector locally.

The judge added that Lewis-Canning had made blunt admissions and accepted that he took advantage of his personal and professional position with Mr O'Neill to abuse his trust.

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