Widow blames 'bullying' Bank

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THE widow of a financier who died of a heart attack after a two-year Bank of England investigation of his company has protested to the Bank's Governor, Eddie George, about the 'bullying' tactics of his enforcement officers. She plans to take legal action against two of them.

Harry Reuben, 69, who was accused of unlicensed deposit- taking, was hounded to death, says Sylvia Reuben in a letter to Mr George. 'He suffered an acute nervous breakdown as a direct result of the oppressive and bullying behaviour of your investigators. He was allowed no peace at home or even in hospital.

'I do not see how an institution like the Bank can get away with killing people like this. I shall not rest until my husband's death has been avenged by seeing these (men) punished.'

Mr Reuben, an accountant, ran Sylcon Finance, investing funds banked at Barclays for relatives and contacts. It was encouraged by Barclays, which guaranteed two deposits totalling pounds 500,000. But in August 1992, a new manager, Steve Kalli, reported Sylcon to the Bank of England.

Given powers of enforcement by the 1987 Banking Act, the Bank raided Sylcon's office on 1 October 1992 to seize documents. It came back on 6 October - the Jewish festival of Yom Kippur - to freeze assets. On 15 January last year, it had Mr Reuben's sons, Lawrence and Ian, arrested and petitioned for a winding-up of the company. The Bank used three Metropolitan Police officers and three of its own enforcers to arrest Harry Reuben on 6 April this year.

According to Mrs Reuben, he was frail and confused. He said: 'Let me die,' and collapsed. He was then 'de-arrested' by Acting Detective Sergeant Byron Thorne and taken to St Mary's Hospital.

The Bank's enforcer-in- chief, Peter Filmer, hired Dr Maurice Lipsedge, who had treated the Princess of Wales for anorexia, to check on 25 July if Mr Reuben was fit to plead. He said 'Let me die' again and again. Dr Lipsedge was not impressed. 'It was a grotesque parody,' he decided in a written report. 'He is malingering.'

For several weeks, Harry Reuben did not see this report. Within hours of reading it, according to his wife, he suffered a heart attack and died on 29 August.

'I understand the distress this must have caused you,' Mr George wrote to Mrs Reuben. He added: 'Prosecutions are only brought after careful consideration of the available evidence. I am satisfied (that) the Bank conducted itself properly in this instance.'

The Bank of England's crackdown on alleged unlicensed deposit-takers is gaining momentum. It did 30 investigations in 1992/93 and 43 the following year. Its nine-strong Enforcement Group have considerable powers, sometimes confronting witnesses with the choice of talking or going to jail.

Lawrence and Ian Reuben, both bankrupt, are charged that they knew - or should have known - that Sylcon took deposits.

Since January 1993, Barclays had distanced itself from Sylcon. It took pounds 1.2m of investors' money to pay off the company's overdraft and bank charges, and to pay back the guaranteed deposits. Other, less fortunate, investors have so far collected less than 4p in the pound.

(Photograph omitted)