Oh, I would be soooooooooo pissed!!!
Crushing blow for bank customers
HONG KONG, China (AP) -- Safe boxes from a bank branch were taken away and crushed as scrap metal, leaving customers shocked and angry at the loss of their most valued possessions, executives acknowledged Wednesday.
Embarrassed bosses at Singapore-based DBS Bank (Hong Kong) Ltd. said they would repay customers whose valuables were ruined or vanished when 83 boxes were removed Saturday by a contractor during renovations, then dumped and compressed in a junkyard.
The bank announced late Wednesday that victims were being offered a quick settlement of 150,000 Hong Kong dollars (US$19,230; euro 15,615) -- or that anyone who claims to have lost more can present an itemized list that will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
Workers have scrambled to recover cash, crucial documents and smashed jewelry from the scrap heap, and DBS said some items can be returned by next week.
The bank's liabilities are not yet known, but if holders of all 83 boxes accept the minimum settlement, DBS will have to pay out HK$12.45 million (US$1.6 million; euro 1.3 million).
The DBS Hong Kong chairman, Frank Wong, apologized to customers for the "accidental destruction of their safe deposit boxes" and said the bank would do all it can to set things right.
"We recognize that there may be items of sentimental value that cannot be measured in monetary terms," Wong said in a statement. "These items are no less important and we sincerely apologize to our customers for the loss of such items."
DBS said it also would provide legal assistance for its customers to replace lost documents or to answer questions about their rights regarding the boxes.
DBS spokeswoman Catherine Ong acknowledged that the bank might face difficulties in ascertaining exactly what had been inside the boxes.
"Of course we don't want to invite any fraudulent claims," Ong told The Associated Press by telephone. "If we feel some claims are dodgy, we will ask a lot of questions."
The bank believes the mix-up was the result of human error, with no foul play suspected, executives said. But after the bank resolves matters with customers it plans a full internal investigation into what went wrong. Ong said it was too early to say if anyone would be fired.
As soon as the problem was discovered, bank employees and workers of a Japanese safe deposit box company, Kumihara, rushed to the scrapyard to see what could be salvaged, Ong said. DBS said late Wednesday that 36 boxes had been found but the search in the junkyard was almost over.
"We have recovered some of the valuables like certificates, some cash and jewelry and the recovery process is still going on," Ong said. Some jewelry had been smashed, she said.
The Sing Tao Daily and Ming Pao newspapers quoted a message circulating on the Internet as saying people working near the scrapyard spotted money, property deeds and commercial contracts over the weekend.
"I saw a broken Rolex gold watch that had diamonds on it and many photographs," said one message, quoted by Sing Tao.
The 83 boxes were removed, along with 837 empty ones, as the bank was expanding the size of a local branch and replacing older, small safe boxes with new, larger ones.
Customers who lost treasured possessions or valuables were outraged.
"This is absurd," the South China Morning Post quoted one victim as saying. "I put my stuff there because I trust the bank. How could something like this have happened?"
The Hong Kong Monetary Authority, the territory's de facto central bank, said it was taking "a very serious view of this matter" and would keep a close eye on how DBS resolves it.
The authority expects DBS to take "prompt and appropriate remedial actions and to compensate customers who may have suffered losses," a spokesman told the AP on customary condition of anonymity.