BANK LOSES HER ‘TRUST’

De­nies mis­plac­ing con­tents of wo­man’s safety de­posit box

Ottawa Sun - - FRONT PAGE - KELLY EGAN To con­tact Egan, please call 613-726-5896 or e-mail kegan@postmedia.com Twit­ter.com/kel­lye­gan­col­umn

Joke Kon­ing­stein made a startling dis­cov­ery when she checked on her safety de­posit box this year. The bank, she says, couldn’t find it, nor ex­plain what had hap­pened to its con­tents.

“I was flab­ber­gasted,” she said Wed­nes­day. “I thought ’How could they pos­si­bly lose it?’“

Kon­ing­stein, 82, be­lieves the Caisse Pop­u­laire Tril­lium some­how lost the box and its con­tents when it moved across the street, from 233 to 214 Mon­treal Road — near the Vanier Park­way — in mid-July 2016.

The bank, mean­while is of­fer­ing a much dif­fer­ent ver­sion of events.

The box con­tained a gold ring en­crusted with gems — a gift from Kon­ing­stein’s then-hus­band — her Dutch birth cer­tifi­cate, a copy of her Cana­dian cit­i­zen­ship from 1970, family pho­to­graphs, an “old” will, a small sum of eu­ros, and pos­si­bly a hand­ful of other pho­tos and doc­u­ments, she says.

She last vis­ited the safety de­posit box in May 2016 and was in­formed that the box would be “closed” be­cause of the im­pend­ing move. Ei­ther then, or weeks later, she was is­sued a new pair of keys and a new num­ber.

(Cu­ri­ously, her orig­i­nal agree­ment has the word “Fermé” hand-writ­ten across it, but bears no date, nor her sig­na­ture in the ap­pro­pri­ate box.)

When she tried to ac­cess the box at the new branch in Fe­bru­ary 2017, she said staff could not lo­cate it and un­der­took a search. Days went by. She said she was told in­quiries were be­ing made at other Caisse branches, as though the box mys­te­ri­ously grew wings.

Frus­trated with the re­sponse, she had her lawyer draft a let­ter on May 1 ask­ing for $10,000 in com­pen­sa­tion.

The Caisse lawyer replied, not only with a quick de­nial of re­spon­si­bil­ity, but cast­ing sus­pi­cion on her. “It ap­pears that Ms. Kon­ing­stein must be con­fused about the se­quence of events,” reads the let­ter from De­nis Cadieux, of Maze­rolle & Lemay.

“Our clients have re­viewed their files and records, and we can ad­vise you that your client at­tended the Caisse at its orig­i­nal lo­ca­tion, at 233 Mon­treal Road, and closed her safety de­posit box on May 27th, 2016.

“The safety de­posit box which your client had pre­vi­ously rented was checked at that time (as were all safety de­posit boxes) and was con­firmed to be empty,” con­cludes the let­ter from the bank’s lawyer.

Kon­ing­stein doesn’t re­mem­ber whether she even looked in the box on May 27. Her rec­ol­lec­tion is that she was “clos­ing” the old box so that items could trans­fer to the new one. She adamantly de­nies tak­ing the items home, as the bank sug­gests.

“Why would I take it all out one week and the next week bring it all back?” she asks.

She says a man­ager at the branch later apol­o­gized for the loss and helped her reap­ply for the lost birth cer­tifi­cate and of­fered her sev­eral months free rent on a new box. Why, she asks, would the bank do this if it were con­vinced she had sim­ply ended the agree­ment and left the premises with the con­tents?

Se­condly — and most im­por­tantly — if Kon­ing­stein took all those items home, why doesn’t she have them in the house?

At this point, she’d prob­a­bly make do with an apol­ogy and some form of com­pen­sa­tion. She also said she re­sents the sug­ges­tion she’s a dot­ter­ing old wo­man who just mixes things up and would some­how for­get tak­ing home a sack­ful of le­gal doc­u­ments.

A quick visit with her il­lus­trates this doesn’t seem plau­si­ble. She keeps care­ful notes on any pro­fes­sional or busi­ness deal­ings. She pulled out a cal­en­dar from 2016 that had small notes in nearly ev­ery daily box about her ac­tiv­i­ties.

She has item­ized the con­tents of the safety de­posit box and kept a run­ning nar­ra­tive of mile­stones in the case.

“I was very, very stressed by this,” she said, peer­ing over pa­pers spread across the ta­ble. “You trust the bank. You lose your trust in the bank.”

The bank, mean­while, is stick­ing to its po­si­tion. “It’s very un­for­tu­nate,” said Caisse gen­eral man­ager Nor­mand Ler­oux. “We’re pretty sure we didn’t lose any­thing dur­ing the trans­fers.”

He said the 60-some old boxes could only be opened in the pres­ence of the key­hold­ers, who were all con­tacted in 2016 about the im­pend­ing move. The bank doesn’t sim­ply trans­fer items from box-to-box on its own, then is­sue new keys, he said.

Ler­oux also said there was a painstak­ing ef­fort to make sure all the old boxes were empty. “We’re sure the items were not in the old (box). They were dou­ble and triple-checked.”

A mys­tery, he agreed — safely de­posited, with in­ter­est, but no solution.

DAR­REN BROWN

DAR­REN BROWN

Joke Kon­ing­stein holds a set of keys yes­ter­day to a safety de­posit box she says her neigh­bour­hood bank, Caisse Pop­u­laire, seems to have lost the con­tents to.

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