A former vice president of Citigroup has been charged with stealing $19 million (£11.9 million) from the banking group's finance department, allegedly using false money transfer codes on a key system.

Gary Foster, 35, a former vice president in Citigroup's finance department, was arrested on bank fraud charges after returning to the US. He had been travelling in Thailand and was apprehended at John F. Kennedy International Airport last Sunday.

He has made an initial appearance at a New York district court, where he denied all charges brought.

Foster allegedly transferred money from various Citigroup accounts to Citigroup’s cash account, and then to his personal account at a different bank.
He is said to have wired out the cash in eight separate transfers between May 2009 and December 2010.

The FBI, which has brought the charges, claims Foster caused a fraudulent contract or deal number to be placed in the reference line of the wire transfer instructions, to create the appearance that the transfers were in support of an existing contract.

Citigroup says the numbers allegedly used by Foster do not relate to any existing contracts or deals. The wire transfers went unnoticed by Citigroup until a "recent" internal audit of its treasury department.

Loretta Lynch, US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said: “The defendant allegedly used his knowledge of bank operations to commit the ultimate inside job. We are committed to ensuring the integrity of the banking system and to prosecuting those who would undermine it for their personal gain.”

Janice Fedarcyk, FBI assistant director-in-charge at the New York field office, said: “The egregious behaviour of those who would exploit our banking system for personal and criminal gain will not be tolerated. We remain committed to investigating and apprehending those who cheat the system.”

If convicted, Foster faces a maximum sentence of 30 years’ imprisonment on bank fraud charges. He is currently on bail awaiting the full trial after paying an $800,000 bond.

In other Citigroup news, earlier this month it was reported that the company suffered about $2.7 million in losses after hackers found a way to steal credit card numbers from its website and post fraudulent charges.