Banks stole half a billion from mortgage customers


New investigations into the criminal actions of Irish bankers during the financial crisis have revealed that some of their customers committed suicide after being swindled out of their homes in a mortgage fraud.

The allegations centre on how the banks suddenly hiked mortgage interest rates for so-called ‘tracker mortgages’ at the height of the crisis.

It is estimated that at least 30,000 borrowers and their families have been affected as 15 banks refused to fulfil obligations to charge customers an interest rate to track that set by the European Central Bank when that declined in the last recession.

Customers lost half a billion euro through overcharging by the banks. They are still refusing to refund the money, and in most cases are also refusing to honour the agreed mortgage interest rate.

Four borrowers have told their story to politicians in the Dublin parliament’s Finance Committee this week, including Thomas Ryan, who along with his wife Claire, finally faced down their bank in the courts.

“It is absolutely appalling. They have destroyed lives all over this country,” he said.

“There are people no longer with us over this. They have committed suicide. And they don’t particularly give a damn.

“I have heard some of the submissions here in the last few weeks from some of the banks - it is an absolute disgrace, the generic, legalistic garbage they are churning out.”

Mr Ryan suffered a stroke in 2013 and his wife Claire had a nervous breakdown in 2015 and lost the power of speech under the pressure of their fight to be restored to a tracker mortgage rate.

“As her husband I find it pitiful and so unjust to see my wife’s previous confident and bubbly nature stripped away from her,” he said.

In an emotional address to the committee, Mr Ryan explained the impact on his three children of the financial pressure and long-running battle with the bank.

“The extreme stress effects on the mental wellbeing of our teenage children is absolutely heartbreaking,” he said. “It can be so upsetting for us that I cannot begin to convey in words.”

Padraic Kissane, a financial advisor who has been leading the charge to get customers restored to the correct rates, said customers had been treated with arrogance by the banks, a condescending attitude and a lack of empathy and understanding.

“What moral compass do they possess,” he asked. “It is financial abuse on a grand scale, contrived to deceive customers of their contractual rights.”

The Central Bank has been accused of deserting the victims by failing to use its powers. Governor Philip Lane (pictured) told victims they should go to the courts or file a complaint with the ombudsman.

Sinn Fein’s Pearse Doherty accused the Central Bank of a dereliction of its duty and he asked why the regulator will not use the powers it was given four years ago to ensure these people get redress as they are being overcharged now.

Describing it as “the dog that doesn’t bark”, Mr Doherty accused the Central Bank of a dereliction of its duty and later said he feared no one would face repercussions.

“Ireland doesn’t do white-collar crime or accountability,” he said. “Nobody, in my view, is going to be held to account for this and no-one will go to jail as a result of this 500 million euro financial fraud.

“I believe the Gardai [police] should be called in to investigate this.”

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