A FORMER Bank of South Pacific (BSP) employee who confessed to stealing more than $50,000 belonging to a school in Honiara has been jailed for 15 months.
This was after Linda Tatapu Ofia pleaded guilty to two counts of larceny by clerk, an offence that carries a maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment.
Chief Magistrate Emma Garo imposed a total sentence of 21 months but suspended six months for 12 months which resulted in the 15 months imprisonment.
Ofia was employed at the BSP and was team leader at the BSP at the time of the offending.
According to the agreed facts of the case, the first incident happened on 31 January 2017.
On that day, the Headmistress of Naha SDA primary school went to Point Cruz BSP branch to deposit school fees collected for the beginning of the term.
The headmistress joined the queue to one of the tellers and was approached by the accused who knew her as her children also attended the Naha Primary school.
The accused asked the headmistress if she could assist her and the headmistress gave her $37,800 to deposit in the school’s account.
The accused however did not deposited the monies into the school account but instead used it for her own benefit.
Again, on 20 April 2017, the headmistress went to BSP, Point Cruz to deposit $16,888.
Ofia again did not deposit the money but instead used it for her own benefit.
Her actions were not found until the school issued a cheque to Discount Auto but there were no funds when the cheque was presented to the bank.
The facts revealed that the headmistress again prepared and issued another cheque to the bank, but still there were no funds in the account as expected.
A complainant was then forwarded to the bank and an investigation was carried out.
Ofia was questioned and she admitted she took those monies and destroyed the cheques.
Ms Garo in sentencing Ofia, took into account her early guilty pleas, she was a first time offender, and $14,000 was recovered.
She said Ofia’s lawyer had asked the court to consider giving Ofia a month to repay the monies but had failed to inform the court what plans or arrangements had been set in place to enable Ofia to pay the monies to the bank within one month.
“Without any supporting documents or evidence being provided to the court, in support of and showing the ability of the defendant to repay the monies within one month, I am unable to make any such order,” Ms Garo said.
Public Solicitor’s lawyer Rodney Manebosa represented Ofia.
Ms Garo also took into account the delay in the prosecution of this matter.
Public Prosecutor Olivia Ratu had asked the court to send a clear and strong message to like minded offenders that such offending is not to be tolerated by the law.
She said the need for appropriate retribution, to punish the offender and the need to consider the prospects of rehabilitation.
She also earlier submitted that Ofia was a bank officer with a role to assist customers to deal with their money.
She said bank customers have their trust on her as a bank officer does deal with their finances and transactions properly and efficiently.
She further submitted that by doing such act, it diminishes the reputation of the bank as it is one of the leading banks which had operated in the country where people had banked or saved their monies.
She added that there was financial loss and the bank has had to take responsibility for the repayment of $40,688.
Ms Garo said she accept that a clear message must be sent to those who breached the trust imposed on them by their clients and employer and that such breach of trust must be punished with the full force of the law.
She also accepted that there has been a clear breach of trust, a repetition of the commission of the offence and such actions as had been done by the defendant are capable of bringing into disrepute to the reputation of the banks.
“The Court has a duty to protect the business houses through the sentences it imposes,” she added.
By ASSUMPTA BUCHANAN