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The Truth Behind Safe Deposit Box Rental In Ireland

Renting a "safe" deposit box in Ireland has undoubtedly become a less attractive prospect as a result of the Covid pandemic lock-downs of 2020 and 2021. Obstacles that were presented to safe deposit box renters regarding travel and access brought some of the disadvantages of leaving valuables with an unregulated third party into sharp focus as it was indoor premises with poor ventilation, such as the confined spaces inside private safe deposit premises that were the primary target of lockdown orders. It was during the same period of time, in 2021 however, that a more fundamental issue regarding private safe deposit storage came to the fore, accompanied by conspicuous silence from the Irish media. This issue has serious implications for the level of trust anyone can continue to have in this unregulated industry, not only in Ireland. It concerned developments in relation to Merrion Vaults and the promotional coverage of that business most notably by the Irish Times.

  A Private Rental Business Is Not A Bank

Unregulated private safe deposit box rental businesses sprung up to exploit a void left by regulated businesses such as banks and credit unions who once offered this service. These regulated institutions left the market due to health, safety, long-term custody, and of course cost concerns. It is important to appreciate therefore that as safe deposit box rental has generally moved from the regulated banking industry to unregulated private hands, many of the standards and oversight that one might think would remain intact for the most basic of security reasons are in fact alien to the new private safe deposit box rental paradigm. This lack of regulation is key to how private safe deposit box rental businesses have achieved profitability when their regulated counterparts had to remove themselves from the market.

Merrion Con Artist

"In Ireland, any claim to a security or standards level by a safe supplier or safe deposit box rental business can be expected to go completely unchallenged by most and uninspected by authorities. To date, no deposit box vault in Ireland has accredited European certification for burglary or fire resistance despite vendors claiming the opposite."

Private safe deposit box businesses function in an environment outside of any constraints foisted on their remaining counterparts in the credit union or banking industry. Operating in this free for all environment, any claim to a security or standards level can be expected to go completely unchallenged by most, and uninspected by authorities, so to think of a private safe deposit centre in Ireland as being akin to a bank, credit union or financial institution is a big mistake. In other words, your valuables are only as secure as the trustworthiness of the management and employees of the company you choose to rent a safe deposit box from, so the fact that private safe deposit businesses have regularly made false claims regarding the security they offer is at the very least, worrying. 

  The Conspicuous Silence On Merrion Vaults Retracted Security Claims From The Media

The Claims:

In 2013 Merrion Vaults in Dublin launched what they claimed was Ireland’s only purpose built private safe deposit vault to much fanfare from the press. It was not until 2014 however, that the claim Merrion had a “VDS tested vault unlike other bank vaults” was published for the first time. This claim went on to be repeated, most notably on the front page of Merrion Vaults website and in insurance industry publications. The claim was invariably accompanied with references to a relationship with Lloyds of London that seems to have become increasingly intimate on repetition, yet, like the claim to VDS certification, this was a factor unmentioned when the business was originally launched. The claim of a relationship with Lloyds seems to have reached its highpoint in 2015 when spokesperson for Merrion Vaults, Seamus Fahy told Valerie Cox of RTE daytime radio, “the whole facility was designed and constructed by Lloyd’s of London”.

The Retractions:

In 2021, Merrion Vaults withdrew claims that their “vault” was “VDS Tested” and also withdrew all references to a relationship with Lloyds of London, including a copy of Seamus Fahy’s RTE interview with Valerie Cox which had been posted on the front page of their website for the previous six years. The reason for this action was that these claims among many others had come to the attention of safe and strongroom expert Alan Donohoe Redd, managing director of Certified Safes Ireland™ and were promptly challenged in a letter to the Irish Times and through the Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland. Although the claims had at that point been disseminated far and wide by the media, the same media outlets were silent on the issue as they were withdrawn. In fact, when the Irish Times, were forced to print a retraction of one of these claims by the Press Ombudsman they managed to do so without naming Merrion Vaults as the business in question, which seems more than a little unfair to anyone else in the same business.

  The Criminal Element

Then there is the final Elephant in the room. Safe deposit centres worldwide are a favourite for criminals, not only as a target but as a facility for storage of drugs, guns, and cash etc… A quick Google search will confirm this. The arrest of Dutch criminal Harm Stachouwerat Connaught House, Burlington Road” in 2020 and the fact he was later charged under the "Money Laundering & Terrorist Financing Act” underlines the point that Ireland is no exception to this pattern.

To quote Irish press reports: “Some €200,000 was allegedly seized. Follow-up searches were carried out at a premises in the Dublin 4 area. An additional significant quantity of cash and a number of gold bars were seized.” Dutch media reported the story a little differently. “A Dutchman has been remanded in custody for money laundering after his arrest in an office building in Dublin 4.” “searches were carried out at a facility in Dublin 4 during which a significant amount of silver and gold bars were seized.” Both Irish and Dutch reports agree the arrest location was Connaught House, Burlington Road, but Dutch media reported the seizure of a “significant amount of silver and gold bars“ at what was described as a “facility”. If Dutch reporting was accurate, why did the Irish media make no mention of this “facility” where silver and gold bars were stored and the fact it was searched by Gardaí in connection with the Connaught House arrest?

Merrion Vaults Arrest

  Final Analysis

The private safe deposit business is highly competitive and one most major banks found unprofitable to operate, so it is not surprising that the privately operated version of this service has to cut corners. From a professional standpoint, the fact that most safe deposit centres use key locked boxes for which keys can be copied and locks quickly picked, when more secure digitally controlled access systems for safe deposit units have been long available, is an obvious indicator of this. The fact that many “safe deposit vaults” are little more than an ordinary room fitted with a strongroom door and a low budget security system is also something to consider.

In the final analysis you have to ask yourself, is it worth spending time traveling to an environment, likely frequented by criminals, with far from “state of the art” security and to do so on a private businesses time schedule, knowing that your valuables are under the watchful gaze of staff, likely on minimum wage? It is also worth noting that staff and management at these premises have physical access to all safe deposit boxes. In a case where that box is a low security key locked unit rented by a customer who rarely visits, opportunities present themselves. Incidents where long term safe deposit box owners have found their safe deposit box empty after a long period without checking up on it are a matter of record.

  Certified Safe V Safe Deposit Box (Hatton Garden Trial)

Apart from the inconvenience of having to travel back and forth to a safe deposit rental business with set hours of operation and the fact that you will be paying yearly for the privilege, an interesting revelation from the Hatton Garden trial might have anyone who has ever considered the option, or who is currently commuting to visit their valuables, wondering how they ever thought that all of the effort and yearly expense can ever be justified. 

During the Hatton Garden safe deposit robbery trial, Prosecutor Philip Evans QC told the jury that the same gang who had so successfully penetrated the Hatton Garden vault had been caught on CCTV at an earlier date, trying to drill into a mid-level European certified safe at the high-end Bond Street jewellers Chatila. The attempt to break into this safe had to be abandoned in favour of looting display cabinets due to the gang's inability to breach the safe's door and walls.

Hatton Garden Merrion Vaults

  Things You Should Never Keep In A Safe Deposit Box

1. Anything That Might Be Needed In An Emergency: The last thing you want in a safe deposit box are data or documents your family or relatives may need in the event of your death or incapacitation. If you are unable to visit the safe deposit premises in person, such data will be off limits until you can either make a personal appearance or someone other than you can prove they have the legal right to access it.

2. Recovery Data: Not only are most safe deposit boxes completely unsuitable for any kind of electronic data but a scenario where you need access to recovery or bitcoin data at a weekend or a holiday such as Christmas and can’t get access to it could spell disaster.

3. Passports: Unless you travel often enough to keep a passport next to your wallet, it may be tempting to put it in the bank vault. However, if an emergency arises you will not have quick access to your passport.

4. An Original Will: Keeping copies of your will in a safe deposit box is fine, but not the original. After death, the box has to be sealed until an executor can prove they have the legal right to access it.

5. Letters Of Intent: A letter of intent, or letter of instruction, is a letter to your family, telling them what your wishes are for your funeral or memorial service and giving details on specific bequests. However, if it is locked up in safe deposit box, your final wishes may not see the light of day for months. Keep the letter of intent with your original will. You might also wish to send the letter of intent to anyone who is designated to receive a specific item and that might include the contents of the box.

6. Power Of Attorney: Similar to the will, the POA needs to be accessible any time, day, or night. Keep it with your original will and provide copies to anyone who might need it. The same goes for your Advance Directives for Health Care or Living Will. It will not do you any good to say you do not want to be kept alive on a heart and lung machine if your agents cannot get to these documents.

7. Spare House Keys: How likely are you to be able to get to your house keys if your key to the safe deposit box is in your home?

 For Advice Call: +353 1 7076011

Alan Redd Certified Safes Ireland NSAI

Certified Safes Ireland™ director Alan Donohoe Redd is a member of the European CEN263 Working Group responsible for writing European Standards for safes, strongrooms (vaults), secure cabinets and physical data protection for the European Union. A registered NATO supplier and a longstanding member of the European Security Systems Association, Alan has a vast range of experience spanning almost 40 years and encompassing installation of safes, strongrooms, physical data protection, CCTV, alarms, access control, secure storage control systems and Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF) specification, design, and installation.

Alan is an expert on standards and fraud issues related to secure storage in Europe and the UK, has had articles related to these subjects published by The Law Society Gazette and Irish Broker Magazine, has forced retractions of multiple false claims related to secure storage offerings to the public, including some published by the Irish Times, and has been pivotal in having misleading standards and practises recognised and withdrawn in Ireland, the UK and at a European level. 

Alan’s expertise has been relied upon by;
N.A.T.O. Europe, The U.S. Air Force (Europe), PayPal (Worldwide), Grant Thornton, The Department Of Communications (Cyber Security) (Ireland), The Revenue Commissioners, Electricity Supply Board (Cyber Security) (Ireland), The Danish Defence Forces (Afghanistan), The Insurance Institute of Ireland, The Royal College Of Surgeons, BFC Bank, Interxion Data Centres, The Private Security Authority, Isle of Man Gold Bullion, Brown Thomas, Bvlgari, Druids Glen, The Shelbourne, and many others ....

Alan's seminars on safes, strongrooms and HNW secure storage have been part of Continuing Professional Development for underwriters and insurers having been awarded CPD points by the Insurance Institute of Ireland and the Chartered Insurance Institute (UK).

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