VANCOUVER – Royal Bank of Canada (TSX:RY) is accusing two former employees who worked at a Vancouver branch of orchestrating a pair of robberies worth more than $200,000.
The bank has filed a civil suit in B.C. Supreme Court, alleging Jeffrey Ho Nam Lau and Maradona Hoang Vu helped an accomplice steal more than C$180,000 and US$20,000 from a vault. The alleged accomplice, Hau Ngoc Nguyen, is also named in the lawsuit.
None of the allegations have been proven in court and the men named in the civil suit have not been charged, though Vancouver police are investigating.
The bank’s statement of claim says the money was stolen on two occasions, first on Dec. 30, 2013, and then on Jan. 31, 2014, while Lau and Vu both worked at the branch. The pair were also roommates, the document says.
The statement of claim alleges the pair copied a vault key and then shared lock combinations. The section of the vault that contains most of the branch’s cash requires the key and both combinations, but the bank’s security policies are designed to ensure no single employee knows both combinations.
The bank alleges the pair helped Nguyen, who was a friend or an associate, set up a safety deposit box in the bank, which is located in the same area as the vault.
During the first theft, the bank alleges Vu led Nguyen to the vault area under the pretence of accessing the safety deposit box. Instead, the bank alleges, they used the copied key and lock combinations to steal $62,500, which Nguyen carried away in a bag.
The bank says it noticed the theft soon after, but it didn’t know who took the money.
The lock combinations were changed the following month and handed out to the branch staff, including Lau and Vu.
On Jan. 31, the bank alleges, Nguyen entered the branch wearing a disguise. The statement of claim alleges Lau led Nguyen to the vault area, again under the pretence of accessing the safety deposit box, where they stole C$120,000 and US$20,000.
By mid-February, the bank had determined Lau and Vu were behind the robberies, says the statement of claim. They were fired in late March.
“The termination was for cause and RBC informed both Lau and Vu that the termination was due to their perpetration of the thefts,” says the bank’s statement of claim.
“Lau and Vu did not, and have not subsequently, disputed the validity of the termination.”
The statement of claim says police arrested Lau and Vu in March 2014 and found $11,000 in a safety deposit box that Nguyen maintained at a different bank.
Vancouver police confirmed no charges have been laid but otherwise declined to comment further.
Lau and Nguyen filed court documents denying all of the allegations.
Lau’s statement of defence says he never would have had any opportunity to copy the vault key and it also notes that more than half a dozen employees at the bank knew each of the lock combinations.
The document says Lau did not dispute his termination on the advice of his lawyer because he had already been arrested by then.
Nguyen’s statement of defence says he has no connection to Lau and Vu other than as a customer at the branch. The document says Nguyen does not know anything about the alleged theft and has no knowledge of the bank’s systems and procedures.
Vu has yet to file a response.