The National Crime Agency is launching a fresh probe into a multimillion-pound banking fraud at HBOS to decide if there should be a new, full-blown criminal investigation.
The announcement is a setback for Lloyds Banking Group, which bought HBOS in 2008.
Six individuals, including two former HBOS employers, were jailed in 2017 for committing the fraud, which centred on the Reading branch of the bank. It was described by the judge as an “utterly corrupt scheme” that left small business owners cheated, defeated and penniless.
The scam took place between 2003 and 2008 and involved a former HBOS employee, Lynden Scourfield, who was in charge of looking after troubled businesses.
He was bribed by David Mills, the owner of a financial consultancy, to load loans on to struggling companies and refer them to Mills’s business. Many of the firms went bankrupt and some of the owners lost their homes.
However, while the jail sentences handed down totalled more than 47 years, controversy over the case has continued to rumble on.
The NCA said it would lead a pre-investigative evidential review into allegations of fraud concerning the HBOS branch in response to a request from Thames Valley police.
It added that the review, which is set to take six months, would look at allegations that fell outside the scope of the original police investigation.
The NCA said a number of companies had reported allegations of significant fraud, and that “these include allegations of asset-stripping through the use of corrupt consultants as well as allegations of fraud and money laundering. The sums of money involved could be significant, running to many millions”.
Lloyds had denied there was any wrongdoing at its Reading branch until two of its former employees were convicted, but in September 2017, the police and crime commissioner of Thames Valley police claimed HBOS must have known of the fraudulent activities inside its Reading branch as long ago as February 2008.
Lloyds said it “welcomes” the enquiry and would fully assist the NCA.