As it is known, last Thursday there was a major theft in one of the Latvian banks, namely Privatbank. It cannot be ruled out that thief’s swag amounted hundreds of thousands and even millions of Euros, LNT Ziņas reported on Monday. How is this possible in modern safe depositories, who is to blame for the incident and who is to compensate for the damage? addressed these questions to Igor Buimister, the owner of Rigas seifi – a company of full-service storage of items with increased security measures.

Let’s recall, how the theft from Privatbank safes happened. The thief posed as a client who wanted to rent a safe. He was taken to the safe room and left alone then he effectuated his criminal intent. It was unofficially mentioned that there were no signs of safe burglary, and the theft was revealed after one of the clients found an empty safe box. The bank reported the incident to the police the next day.

“I’m nearly 100 percent sure of some things that preceded the story of the theft in the depositories of Privatbank and caused this case,” says Igor Buimister. “First, it was professionals who acted in the bank. How did this happen? They rented a safe box and carried out internal inspection of the room, technical surveillance means and cameras, looked at how depository management was arranged.

Second, at the time when the theft occurred, the depository security officer did not present in the room together with the visitors. Moreover, security officers allowed two visitors to go inside the depository and left them there alone. One of them simulated operations with his safe, while the other opened the locks of the safe boxes. It is clear that this was not their first visit to the depository, since before they were able to scan the locks of cells with a special 3D scanner. There was little difficulty for them in smuggling the scanner inside. After that, the keys were made, that’s why the boxes were opened without breaking, and then closed again. After some time, when the owners of the cells found the loss, it became known about the theft.”

According to the expert, several important security rules were violated in the case of Privatbank. For example, clients were allowed to be inside the safe room alone, without a guard and for more than 10 minutes. “In our depository, for example, this is one of the main safety rules: if a client needs to stay longer than 10 minutes, he moves to another room outside the safe zone and may stay there for even an hour. Plus, the guard must constantly remain in the safe rooms. Video surveillance is also of importance. If it is installed, thieves will steer clear of the facility – it is too complicated and dangerous,” Buimister says.

Buymister suspects that these same thieves visited the depositories of Rīgas seifi too. “I have reason to think so for a number of indirect signs,” he said. “We were also visited by rather strange clients who immediately stroke us as suspicious. Most likely, they went round other safe depositories in banks and found the most vulnerable in view of security control. The others did not suffer precisely because they have good protection against such cases.”

Who should pay compensation to the victims of theft in the depository? “Most likely, the bank in this situation will be inclined to the decision that it is not liability of theirs, since it is written in the contract,” says the expert. “The bank does not control the contents, and the client cannot prove what was inside the cell. The smart clients should either photograph the contents of the cell, or make a list of what they store. However, even in this case, it is not easy to prove everything, though at least there is some chance of getting compensation.”

Buymister emphasizes that for a bank, the most often the service of safe depository is financially unprofitable. “It is needed more as a bonus for the clients’ convenience, but the bank itself does not earn anything on it,” he explains. “Therefore, in Europe, the separation of the safe depository service from the banking business is in progress. That’s exactly why, if such an incident occurred, for instance, in my company, then its future would be in question.”

Rīgas seifi is a company that provides full-service storage of items with increased security measures. It is a member of the International Safe Deposit Federation.