Former NBV officer receives suspended sentence for forgery and deception

A former bank officer who was charged for stealing at the National Bank of Vanuatu (NBV) had his sentence suspended.

He was sentenced to nine months suspended for three years for stealing more than VT800,000. Silvain Bulewak, a former bank officer at Pentecost, entered pleas of guilty to four counts involving forgery and deceptions.

But the court has imposed a restitution order to have the bank paid back by the third anniversary of his sentence but told Bulewak that if he needed more time then he should contact the authorities and let them aware of the change.

Justice David Chetwynd said that the money was taken by the unsophisticated deception and forgery of simply altering a figure in Bulewak’s bank book or pass book.

He said that the former NBV took advantage of the lack of technical resources in rural branches of the bank to steal that amount and after acquiring the money he used it to purchase various goods and gave some to his friends.

The offences occurred in 2012 and the court found that there is no real explanation it took five years for the case to reach court. The committal following PI was not until November 2016.

Although Bulewak committed the offence in two basic tranches on Pentecost, Justice Chetwynd proposed to pass concurrent rather than consecutive sentence in his case.

“The starting point for any sentence involving forgery and deception of this type and on this scale is three years imprisonment,” he said.

“There is nothing in particular which aggravates the offending except, as mentioned already, there were two distinct occasions when the offences were committed.

“The Defendant has entered guilty pleas at an early stage in the proceedings and the PI papers confirm that when he was interviewed about the matter he admitted what he had done and cooperated with the police.

“Items that he had purchased with the proceeds of the crime were retrieved by the police at an early stage of the investigation.”

Those items appeared to have been handed to the bank.

The court ruled that Bulewak is entitled to a full one third deduction from his sentence taking the balance down to two years imprisonment.

It found that the former bank officer has no previous convictions and is also entitled to be given credit for his past good character and sentence was reduced by another six months leaving a balance of 18 months.

Justice Chetwynd also took note of the lengthy delay in bringing the case to court and Bulewak was not responsible for the delay but there has been a set of unfortunate circumstances which has led to delay.

He said that there could have been even further delay had not Bulewak agreed to come to Port Vila from his home on Pentecost to be dealt with.

“The Defendant is entitled to have a further nine months deducted from his sentence to take the unfortunate delay into account,” the Judge said.

He then sentenced Bulewak to nine months imprisonment on each four charges that were ordered to be served concurrently. The sentence was suspended for three years.

The Judge warned Bulewak that any further offence within three years will result in him being arrested and taken to custody.

“I also make a restitution order pursuant to section 58ZD of the Penal Code CAP 135,” he said.

“The Defendant must pay to the National Bank of Vanuatu the sum of VT830,000 by the third anniversary of this sentence.

“As I pointed out to the Defendant, if he does not make payment within the time specified then he will be liable to a further penalty under section 58 ZD (2).” Mr Justice Chetwynd said that he understood from the Pre-Sentence report Bulewak hoped to plant kava and raise sufficient cash to pay the bank back.

The Judge cautioned him and said that it looked as if restitution would not be completed in time then he should speak to the Bank and ask for more time.

“If he simply did nothing he would be in danger of being taken into custody without further ado,” the Judge said.

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