Derry banker stole €105,000 from client, court told

Investment banker took money from customer’s account without approval and invested it in RBS shares

Derry Crown Court told Colum Lewis-Canning (55) from Moneyrannel Road in Limavady, took the money from an account owned by a long time personal and professional friend.

Derry Crown Court told Colum Lewis-Canning (55) from Moneyrannel Road in Limavady, took the money from an account owned by a long time personal and professional friend.


The Crown Court in Derry has been told of the demise of the banking career of one of the North-West’s most successful investment bankers who abused his position of trust within the Ulster Bank to steal £105,000 from a client.

Colum Lewis-Canning (55), a father of two adult children, from Moneyrannel Road in Limavady, who took the money from an account owned by a long time personal and professional friend between January 2008 and February 2009, is to the sentenced for the offences on Friday.

At his plea hearing before Judge Philip Babington, a prosecution barrister said Lewis-Canning took the money from accounts in the name of William O’Neill, a caravan sales businessman in Portstewart. The defendant got to know Mr O’Neill when he worked with the Bank of Ireland in Coleraine in 2001 and he managed Mr O’Neill’s accounts. In 2002 Lewis-Canning moved to the Ulster Bank branch at Strand Road in Derry to where Mr O’Neill transferred his accounts.

In 2006, at Lewis-Canning’s invitation, Mr. O’Neill invested £100,000 in a company set up by the defendant whose directors included prominent members of the North-West business community. The following year Mr O’Neill refused a request by Lewis-Canning to invest a further £105,000 in the company knows as Smartinvest.

In May and June 2010 Mr O’Neill’s accountant raised a number of issues in relation to Mr O’Neill’s accounts, in particular to the transfers from his accounts of £12,500, £65,000 and £22,500 which had not been authorised. Mr O’Neill then raised the matters with his solicitor and the police were notified.

The defendant was interviewed and he told the police that Mr O’Neill had agreed to the further investments. The money was invested with stockbrokers and was used to buy shares in the Royal Bank of Scotland.

The prosecution barrister said although Lewis-Canning had repaid £48,000, there was still an issue about his ability to repay the outstanding amount of £55,000.

Defence barrister Eugene Grant QC said Lewis-Canning’s 35 year banking career was now over.

“It was a sparkling career. He was at the height of the North-West banking community, the rising star. He has fallen and brought shame to himself and to his family. He is devoid of all his professional decorations and has lost his reputation”, he said.

Mr Grant said: “boundaries got blurred and people lost the run of themselves during the 10 years of the Celtic Tiger.”

He said initially Smartinvest was a successful consortium investment company. Mr. O’Neill’s initial £100,000 in 2006 was worth £150,000 the following year and the company was worth multi-millions. He said during his professional relationship with Mr O’Neill, Lewis-Canning had obtained for him loans totalling £10 million for caravan park developments and for property developments and investments.

Mr Grant said when the market began to slip Lewis-Canning took a chance and gambled in investing in Royal Bank of Scotland shares. That bank owned the Ulster Bank and between 2007 and 2010 the shares were worth up to £4 each. However the share value collapsed and it became a penny share bank with a share value today of about 37 pence per share.

“Lewis-Canning and his wife have lost £300,000. He continued to buy Royal Bank of Scotland shares as the value collapsed and Mr O’Neill’s money was used by the defendant to buy shares,” Mr Grant said.

“His fault was the money was not his to use and not his to gamble with,” the barrister added.

Mr Grant said it was Lewis-Canning’s intention to pay off the outstanding £55,000 to Mr. O’Neill. He hoped to gain the money from the equity of his house and that equity was valued between £60,000 and £100,000.

He said the case had also impacted on Lewis-Canning’s health in terms of depression and “suicidal situations”.

“It is a case that is mired in trauma on all sides”, he added.

Judge Babington said it was a serious case which had very serious reprecussions for a number of people.