WINNIPEG, Manitoba, Canada – Pricewaterhouse Coopers is continuing an audit begun after loan irregularities were discovered during an internal audit at the Astra Credit Union. The board was informed in late October of unauthorized overdrafts and inaccurate reporting, Astra CEO Ian Dark said. The employee involved was immediately placed on indefinite leave until the matter is resolved. Many Canadian credit unions operate business centers for commercial customers. Astra has a business center as well as six branches. Although Dark did not affirm or deny the name of the client, local sources believe the loans were made to Maple Leaf Distilleries, which in various news stories talked about Astra’s support being one of the reasons for their success. Local newspapers also report that Maple Leaf is the Astra problem gone bad. Maple Leaf was once considered a Manitoban success story. It was founded in the late 1990s by David Wolinsky and Costa Ataliotas and produced blended whiskies and crme liquors under the Keg Caesar restaurant brand. Their business dealings via their holding company Protos International, Inc. and Crocus Investment Fund in Canada as well as New World Brands in Florida are a tangled path. Maple Leaf did not return Credit Union Times’ telephone calls or e-mails. Astra CEO Dark, however, reported that Astra believes the bad loan was “an isolated incident. We’re working hard to determine how it happened in order to ensure that it never happens again.” He said when the problem was discovered it “was promptly taken to the board which acted swiftly and decisively.” In Canada members’ deposits are 100% secured by the Credit Union Deposit Guarantee Corporation. Astra, Dark said, “is on a very strong financial footing with $17 million in retained earnings and $22.5 million in equity. That means members’ funds are as secure today as they always have been.” The credit union, founded in the late 1950s, employs 120 people. In explaining why Astra would not confirm the name of the client whose loan was in question, he said that the credit union’s commitment to member and employee confidentiality, as well as strict privacy legislation, prevented him from disclosing either the employee’s name or the precise details of the incident. “The same standard Astra is applying today is the one it applies every day to fully protect the private information of both members and employees.” Dark told Credit Union Times that the auditors are expected to report to the Astra board during the first quarter of 2006 after they complete their work. [email protected]

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