A man has been ordered to serve four years behind bars for entering a local community shop and stealing more than VT1 million two years ago on Pentecost.
Michael Tabinok, 32, was found guilty for entering Sisbaleh Community Store in Central Pentecost without permission and took that amount sometime between October 29 and 30 2015.
He was charged with unlawful entry and theft.
Chef Justice Vincent Lunabek said that the money has been kept in store as per agreement by the community and Fr. Derick Bule.
Justice Lunabek said that one of the reasons to keep the money there was because the only nearest commercial bank (National Bank of Vanuatu) is located on the Western side of the island and it is too much of a hassle to go back and forth given the road conditions.
He said that apart from the VT1 million, the store also kept money raised by the Saint Mark Anglican Church in the sum of VT96,000 in denominations of VT2,000, VT1,000 and VT5,00.
“This money was raised to pay material in Port Vila to help build the Saint Mark Church,” he said.
“Both monies were kept in a transparent plastic bag and were kept in a white container in a small office in the shop.
“Prior to the incident both Mr. Kendrick Tabi and Mr. Hardison Tabi (shop keepers) took turns to man the shop during opening hours and after hours upon request by customers.
“On October 29, 2015 before Mr Tabi finished his shift as routine he would check and recount the money and ensure that the money was kept safe.”
He said that Kenrick also did the same before beginning his shift.
He said that on the morning of the October 30, 2015, he was awoken by a customer by the name of Mr. Nelson who requested to buy rice at the shop.
“Upon entering the shop Kenrick noticed that the door was slightly opened,” he said.
“At first he thought he must have not closed the door before locking it.
“Inside the shop he noticed that all the items were in place except that all the monies in the plastic bag were stolen.
“The sum of which was VT1,096,000.”
He said that Kenrick came back to the door and noticed that the pad lock was still locked but the door pin was bent by force to allow the pad lock to slip and release the door pin.
Tabinok was arrested and cautioned and he admitted that he entered Sisbaleh Community Store at night time toward the end of the month of October 2015 between 2am and 3am.
The defendant used a torch inside the store and found the money in a transparent plastic bag under the counter and stole it.
Chief Justice said that Tabinok said that he took an amount of VT300,000 but a search was conducted at a witness’s house in Port Vila where he was living with her while selling his kava in Vila, police recovered a total of 110,000 Vatu cash.
There were VT15 x 5,000 notes and 31 x VT1000 notes.
“This was recovered along with some other items that you bought including a solar panel and a bicycle,” he said.
“The total money you took with you that night was Vatu 1,096,000. That was the total amount of money you have stolen from the store.
“It is appropriate to pause and consider the offences of unlawful entry and theft themselves.
“In a place where such offences are few, it may be possible to pass short sentences and it is clear Port Vila was such a place prior to 1989. But the offence is extremely serious.
“A criminal who is willing to commit such a crime must expect a serious penalty.”
In aggravating factors, he said that there was some degree of planning and pre-meditation; the offences were committed at night between 2 – 3am; there were damage done to the door pin to gain entry; the amount of money stolen was a significant loss.
He said that victims suffered a substantial loss in their community store; and the recovery of VT110,000 leaving the sum of VT986, 000 that was unrecovered.
He then sentenced Tabinok to five years imprisonment as a starting point on both offences.
A summary of mitigation factors from five years sentence, a total period of 12 months has been deducted leaving an end sentence of four years imprisonment.
He then ordered the sentence to be served with immediate effect.