The two men who withdrew and transferred monies from bank accounts two years ago, without knowing it was a scam were sent to jail yesterday.

The Supreme Court has sentenced Charles Sumbe to two years imprisonment while Namtaku Kalsaria Maipeza was sentenced to one year and four months in jail, effective as of yesterday.

Defence lawyer Gregory Takau told the court that his client, Mr Sumbe is in Santo on a work trip and was expected back in Port Vila on Sunday morning.

Justice Oliver Saksak said the defendants in the case were supposed to be sentenced last week but the hearing was adjourned because Sumbe was in Santo.

He promised the court to be in Port Vila on Tuesday this week, therefore the court set the matter to be heard yesterday.

Justice Saksak then issued a warrant to have Sumbe arrested in Santo and placed him behind bars at the Luganville Correctional Centre, as most of the offences he committed happened when he was employed in the Northern Town.

He said the only reason for imposing an imprisonment term is to mark the seriousness of the offending and to mark the court’s condemnation of these unlawful actions in the country.

He said the imprisonment sentence will also be used as a deterrence to the defendants, the general public and to serve as an adequate protection to banks and financial institutions charged with custody of people’s money held in trust.

Justice Saksak said Sumbe admitted 15 counts while Maipeza pleaded guilty to four counts of money laundering, contrary to section 11 (3) (a) of the Proceeds of Crime Act 284 of 2005.

The judge said the section warranted a maximum penalty of a fine of Vt10 million or imprisonment for 10 years, and this high fine and lengthy sentence indicated clearly that money laundering is a serious offence.

He said the offence happened in a very short time — February 2-10, 2016- and involved more than Vt500,000.

This involved transferring monies from other people’s bank accounts. They then sent the money to an unknown man called Omar Ojha in Malaysia.

The judge said Maipeza used Vt240,000 from these funds.

He said ANZ customers have lost huge amounts in their personal accounts and the bank has repaid the loss, however Sumbe has also agreed to repay some of the monies in installments.

Justice Saksak said that both Sumbe and Maipeza have received commissions for their engagement in these transactions for their own benefit, and they willingly accepted to be involved in this financial exercise, which was a joint enterprise with a person overseas.

He said that although they knew what they were doing was wrong, they continued to do it and the court sees that there was a degree of planning on their part.

He initially sentenced Sumbe to five years imprisonment on each count and ordered them to be served concurrently, then reduced to three years after considering the mitigating factors. He further reduced it to two years as the end sentence for the guilty plea.

Maipeza was given three years as the starting point, this was reduced to an end sentence of one year and four months, after considering the mitigating factors and the admission at the earliest opportunity.

Defense lawyer Takau said that they will appeal the sentence.

A similar money laundering case was heard in Luganville in June, the defendant in the case — Steve Bani was given a 12 months imprisonment with immediate effect.

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