Customs to repay 1m pounds stolen in the post

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The Independent Online
CUSTOMS and Excise officials have been forced to pay a council pounds 1m after a cheque was stolen in the post and cashed.

The cheque, which was meant to be a VAT repayment to the north London borough of Haringey, was sent out in October 1992. It should have been sent by recorded delivery, but because Customs failed to do so it was nearly three months before the council realised it had not arrived.

In the meantime, the cheque had been intercepted and cashed in the Austrian capital of Vienna.

A police investigation was launched and council and customs officials have since been involved in a dispute over liability. The two sides were due to go to court later this year after Haringey issued a writ for repayment, but Customs have now offered to replace the cheque.

Council officials had argued for months for the payments to be made by direct transfer instead of being sent in the post.

A spokesman for Customs and Excise said: 'It was normal policy at the time to send repayments by cheque in the post. The policy is under review and we will be delivering the new cheque by hand.'