25 October 2020

When is dishonesty theft?

By Alfred Sasako


JANE (not her real name) is this month counting her blessings. She almost lost $5, 000 of lifetime savings in a “mistake” by a teller in one of the four foreign-owned commercial banks in a bungle earlier this month.

Jane lives and teaches in a rural school in Malaita. The technology ensures she keeps an eye daily on her nest egg (savings) through mobile banking, which makes it easier for her to transfer part of her salary into her mobile banking account regularly.

Earlier this month the first time bank account holder travelled to Honiara to withdraw some of her savings. On Friday 2nd October, teacher Jane walked into the bank and approached a bank teller to help her withdraw part of her savings, her wantoks told Solomon Star. 

Jane withdrew $5, 000 that day. She did not wish her identity to be disclosed.

According to the lady teacher, her balance after the withdrawal that day was $6, 000. For Jane everything was going to plan until Sunday 4th October – two days after she withdrew the initial $5, 000 – when she decided to check her balance again, using mobile banking.

To her surprise, her bank account balance had dwindled to just $1, 000. It would appear some $5, 000 had gone missing from her account between Friday and Sunday.

She brought up the matter with a relative who also works in the same bank, one relative told Solomon Star last week.

What the teacher’s relative discovered was even more surprising.

“The $5, 000 that has been missing from the lady teacher’s account has actually been transferred to an account held by the lady teller who helped Jane in the first place,” according to an individual who was informed of the matter.

“When the incident was brought to the attention of the branch manager on Monday 5th October, he simply downplayed it, describing it as a mistake and instructed the teller to return the money to the teacher’s account.

It is not clear what action if any would be taken against the teller.

“The teacher was very lucky.

“First, she found out about the “mistake” early. Secondly, she has a relative who holds a senior position in the bank. She was able to sort out the matter very quickly,” the individual said.

The individual said account holders should check their bank accounts thoroughly after every transaction.

“Technology can work for or against you,” he warned.