A manager at an accountancy firm allegedly swiped data from his employers after setting up a new business.
Liam McCreath is claimed to have taken details of clients belonging to Nicolson Accountancy in Glasgow on 15th September 2020.
Prosecutors state the 36-year-old did knowingly or recklessly obtained personal details without the knowledge of the company’s data controller.
It is alleged McCreath removed a quantity of files from their office in the city’s Kelvinbridge related to people employed by Nicolson Accountancy and their clients.
McCreath, of Paisley, Renfrewshire, denies the single charge.
Glasgow Sheriff Court heard that McCreath was hired by the award-winning firm to work with founder Angus Nicholson on tax matters in 2015.
Co-founder and Angus’ wife Susan Nicholson, 56, told the court that McCreath had experience working with other accounting firms and HMRC.
Despite, this the witness claimed that McCreath had no university degree.
Susan stated that McCreath worked his way up the company and was appointed a tax manager.
She said: “Anything that would be said would go through Liam, he was thought to be our number two.
“He was always the first to be asked or told things.”
Susan claimed that there were also discussions for McCreath to buy into or take over the firm after the Nicholsons retired.
Susan stated that McCreath’s work ethic slowed down during the pandemic after being tasked to complete tax returns for clients.
She said: “Until that point, we didn’t have trust issues with him, we thought he was working for the good of the business.
“He pushed me a couple of times for me to furlough him and we said no as we felt we needed him to get in contact with the clients and do the tax returns.”
The witness earlier stated that some clients were crying on the phone at the time as they “believed they were losing everything.”
Susan claimed that McCreath resigned over email in September 2020.
She said she was “surprised and shocked” as McCreath had given no inclination that he planned to leave.
Susan claimed that McCreath had access to “pretty much everything” regarding data on the company’s server.
This included names, addresses, dates of birth and banking information for clients and their employees.
The witness added that there was software in place which logged what each employee did and alarms would sound if data was moved to somewhere it was not supposed to be.
To access the server, employees had to enter a username and password.
Susan stated that McCreath was also provided a company laptop and mobile phone.
The witness claimed that she did an internet search to find that McCreath had set up an accounting company Calaila Tax Services in July 2020.
This was said to be accompanied with a Facebook page which was similar to Nicholsons Accountancy.
She added: “When resigning he said he got a consultancy role and was working for people not associated with our company…it didn’t feel right and just didn’t sit right.”
Susan claimed that she received alerts that McCreath has accessed and removed files from the company’s server.
This included files in areas which had no relevance to McCreath’s role such as the VAT and payroll departments.
She said: “We were concerned, we made the decision as directors to lock [McCreath’s] access down.”
The witness stated that she received an email from McCreath that day stating he was sick followed up by another email later on wishing to leave the company.
Susan claimed she also received correspondence from companies house and HMRC which “cemented my concerns.”
The witness added that she received a report from their IT company about McCreath’s use of the server which “confirmed” her concerns.
Susan claimed that her lawyer and McCreath’s lawyers came to an agreement for the return of 800 files later that year.
She said: “By that time, we had an idea of what was taken.
“There was an enormous amount of data, an unbelievable amount of data, it was even more extensive than we believed in September.”
The witness stated that the information gave McCreath an “off the shelf head start” with his business.
She said: “He set up his company without having to do our work or pay for our work.”
The trial continues at the end of the month before Sheriff Valerie Mays.