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Last Updated: Friday, 7 January, 2005, 17:15 GMT
Northern Bank withdraws its notes
Northern Bank chief executive Don Price
Don Price said the bank was the victim of the raid
The chief executive of the Northern Bank has said he will not be resigning over the theft of millions from the bank before Christmas.

Don Price also announced that the bank is to withdraw almost all of its notes and will replace them with banknotes of different colours.

In his first public comment since the robbery, Mr Price said it was an "unprecedented" move.

Mr Price also confirmed that the figure taken in the raid was 26.5m.

Detailed audit

It had earlier been announced that 22m was taken from the bank's head office in Belfast on 20 December.

The bank had carried out a detailed audit in the days after the raid and knew that the figure was 26.5m, but it was only on Friday that the police allowed it to release that information, Mr Price said.

He was speaking on the day that Chief Constable Hugh Orde said that the Provisional IRA was responsible for the crime.

He said that "all main lines of inquiry currently undertaken are in that direction".

However, there have been no arrests in connection to the raid and none of the money has been recovered.

The Northern Bank's headquarters in Donegall Square West, Belfast
Millions of pounds were stolen from the bank on 20 December

Mr Price said that confidence in the bank had been "affected" by the raid but not "shattered".

He said that his role was to take the bank forward.

"I have done nothing wrong. We are the victims in this. We are not the ones responsible for the raid," he said.

Mr Price said it would cost the bank about 5m to recall and replace all its 10, 20, 50 and 100 notes.

It currently has more than 300m of its notes in circulation and only its existing plastic 5 notes will remain in circulation.

The withdrawn notes are to be replaced by new notes of the same design - but they will be a different colour, have a new logo, and new prefixes to their serial numbers.

Difficult to circulate

It will take up to eight weeks to print the new notes, and they will be in circulation as soon as possible after that.

Mr Price confirmed that the bank had serial numbers for 16.5m of new Northern Bank notes.

However, the other 10m consisted of 5.5m in used Northern Bank notes and 4.5m in mixed notes from other banks which could not be traced.

Mr Price admitted that the robbers will still be able to spend the old notes.

However, the move to withdraw the Northern Bank notes makes it difficult to recirculate the old notes into the economy in the speedy timescale.

And the bank will be monitoring very closely to check whether the serial numbers of the stolen notes turned up in its recalled money.

Mr Price said: "To my knowledge this is the first time this has been done.

"To minimise the impact on our customers, we are going to take the notes out of circulation ourselves.

"So when we bring notes back into the bank, we will take the old notes out of circulation and we will replace them with the new ones."



SEE ALSO:
Police say IRA behind bank raid
07 Jan 05 |  Northern Ireland
Timeline: Northern Bank robbery
07 Jan 05 |  Northern Ireland
Police return to hostage's home
27 Dec 04 |  Northern Ireland
Police deny 'bank robbery botch'
23 Dec 04 |  Northern Ireland
Gang in '20m' bank raid
21 Dec 04 |  Northern Ireland


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