Pair 'plotted to rip off bank' with sex bias case

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The Independent Online
GLENDA COOPER

A City dealer, suing for sex discrimination, plotted with her debt-ridden boyfriend to bleed a Japanese bank out of thousands of pounds, an industrial tribunal heard yesterday.

Michael Cole, a director of Fuji International Finance, said that Helen Bamber's case was driven by her boyfriend Cameron McNeill's "personal feelings towards Fuji".

Helen Bamber, 32, who was earning pounds 47,000 as a Eurobonds dealer when she left her job with Fuji, is claiming sex discrimination and constructive dismissal and is also suing under the Equal Pay Act. She claims that she was asked to resign after she refused the advances of one of her bosses. Her boyfriend had earlier worked in the derivatives department.

"Our contention is that at the beginning of 1994 you began actively, with the assistance of Mr McNeill, to plot how to get money out of Fuji," said Mr Cole. He said that Ms Bamber was perceived as a "backstabber and devious and manipulative" by colleagues.

He added: "Mr McNeill had the legal knowledge. Because he was unemployed, he had the time. He had the motive because he had a grudge against Fuji and he had significant debts because he was about to be declared bankrupt."

He said Mr McNeill, who earned pounds 120,000 a year before he left the firm, was a "notorious" drinker who caused the firm embarrassment and who later needed psychiatric treatment, entering a hospital in 1994.

Mr Cole added: "Mr McNeill was often drunk in the office and sometimes smelt of alcohol at 9 o'clock in the morning."

Ms Bamber said she could not recall ever seeing him drunk in the morning but added: "I had seen Mr McNeill drunk in the afternoon at work."

During an acrimonious cross-examination, Mr Cole accused Ms Bamber of seeking to smear Fuji's name.

"We believe many decent men are having their reputations ruined during this application." he said. "We believe it is simply so that the applicant can get money out of her former employers. We wonder how many other reputations she is prepared to ruin."

Mr Cole said that Ms Bamber's earlier claim that Tak Yoshida had propositioned her on the second of two business trips with her to Scandinavia was undermined by the fact that the company had no record of the second trip.

But Ms Bamber said: "I have absolutely no doubt at all that, on the second of these trips, this incident happened and I have absolutely no doubt that his attitude changed to me dramatically after that incident."

Ms Bamber was also accused of seeking jobs with other Cityfirms in her last months at Fuji. Mr Cole said the company had secretly recorded telephone conversations between her and city head-hunters.

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