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Last Updated: Wednesday, 6 October, 2004, 10:19 GMT 11:19 UK
Crushing news for HK bank customers
By Chris Hogg
BBC correspondent in Hong Kong

A bank in Hong Kong has been explaining to customers why it sent 83 security deposit boxes full of valuables to a scrap yard, where they were destroyed.

DBS Bank says the mistake happened when one of its branches was refurbished.

Contractors working over the weekend were supposed to dump empty ones. Instead they took full ones from the bank's vault.

The bank has promised to compensate its customers for losses, but few had told the branch what was in their boxes.

It is very hard for us to say at this point in time what will be the amount
Sunny Cheung, DBS Bank

DBS said on Wednesday that all customers would be offered an ex gratia payment of HK$50,000 ($6,400).

They will be offered a further two options. A one-off fast track settlement of a further HK$100,000 ($12,800) as a "speedy and simple solution", or customers who prefer to draw up a detailed list of the contents can submit a declaration form.

The bank says it will then begin discussions with them on a case-by-case basis.

DBS Hong Kong's Head of Consumer Banking, Sunny Cheung, admitted they faced a difficult task establishing exactly what had been destroyed.

"This is a very tough situation because at the end, we have to work together with our customers to ascertain the value of the contents inside. It is very hard for us to say at this point in time what will be the amount, so I think we have to reiterate DBS takes ultimate responsibility for this incident and we will honour our obligation to our customers".

There is some hope though for those who fear they have lost irreplaceable items.

The bank says it has managed to recover some of what was lost.

Its officials are combing through what is left of the boxes, carrying out an inventory of what survived the attempts to destroy them. An investigation into what went wrong is under way.

Regions and territories: Hong Kong
10 Sep 04 |  Country profiles


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