Police Scotland launches secret probe into RBS asset stripping scandal

Police in Scotland have launched a secret investigation into claims that Royal Bank of Scotland destroyed and then asset-stripped healthy businesses, according to reports.

The move follows the disclosure of leaked documents which revealed last week that staff were encouraged to put business owners under such financial strain that their enterprises would be forced to the wall and then have their profitable assets preyed upon.

According to reports, the shadowy practice was known within the still 73 per cent state-owned bank as ‘Project Dash for Cash’.

Police Scotland detectives began inquiries in recent weeks after instruction from the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS)’s Serious and Organised Crime Division, the Daily Mail reports, with several alleged victims in Scotland already interviewed in a now ongoing process.

Once those initial investigations are completed a decision will be made on whether to launch a criminal investigation.

However, at this stage neither COPFS nor Police Scotland have publicly acknowledged their joint investigation.

But the newspaper cites a source close to the probe who said: “There’s been a growing suspicion among those who lost out that the authorities, particularly in England, would rather this was swept under the carpet. The Crown Office was lobbied to take a closer look and it instructed Police Scotland to begin gathering evidence.”

He said it was “beyond doubt the conduct of RBS has left in its wake a trail of profound human misery”.

He added: “What has to be decided now is whether the bank’s actions constitute illegality.”

As news of the leaked documents emerged last week, Labour MP John Mann wrote to the Serious Fraud Office – which has investigatory powers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland – calling for a criminal probe into RBS, claiming there is a “distinct possibility that its practices have passed from bad practice to malpractice”.