A Saudi engineering business that claims it was tricked into sending $5 million to a Natwest bank account at a branch in south London is suing the British lender in the High Court.
Tecnimont Arabia, which is a subsidiary of Italy’s Maire Tecnimont, is bringing legal action against the division of Royal Bank of Scotland Group after it claims it fell victim to an “authorised push payment” scam.
Tecnimont says that an email account of a senior employee in the group was hacked by an unknown party and an email was sent instructing a $5 million payment be sent to a bank account at a Natwest branch in Brixton in October 2018.
It claims that after the payment was made, large amounts were subsequently transferred out of the account to Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hong Kong, Hungary and Poland despite the triggering of two fraud alerts at Natwest.
Tecnimont is now seeking about $3.76 million from Natwest, which it claims was the amount that was in the Brixton account when the first fraud alarm went off, plus interest and costs. It is claiming unjust enrichment and unconscionable receipt and alleges that Natwest fell short of “standards of commercially acceptable conduct for a bank in relation to the prevention of fraud, money laundering, terrorist financing and financial crime”.
Natwest-owner RBS is one of Britain’s biggest banks, which is led by boss Alison Rose and remains about 62 per cent owned by the taxpayer as a legacy of its £45 billion bailout during the 2008 banking crisis.
Engineering group Maire Tecnimont is listed in Milan and operates in 45 countries.
So-called “authorised push payment” scams are becoming increasingly common and usually target individuals. This type of fraud occurs when someone is tricked into making a payment to an account they believe to be genuine.
Tecnimont says in its legal claim that it intended to send the $5 million to another company in the Maire Tecnimont group but that the money was diverted to the Brixton bank branch after the email account was hacked.
It discovered the scam when another fraudulent email was sent at the end of October that tried to arrange for $1.5 million to be sent to an account in Hong Kong.
Between July 30, 2018, and the alleged fraud, the Brixton account at the centre of the scam was overdrawn, Tecnimont claims.
A spokesman for RBS said: “The bank is defending the claim brought by Tecnimont Arabia.”