Woman escapes jail term for misappropriation

A woman was ordered to repay Vt3 million to her former employer after she admitted to misappropriating more than Vt6 million from the company she used to work for.

Connie Sewere from Malekula was sentenced to two years imprisonment for three years for misusing the amount, while she was employed by Shane Royle who owns Rapid Electric and Bayview Apartment in Port Vila.

Justice Daniel Fatiaki said Sewere misappropriated the money sometimes between 2006 to 2012 before the matter came to light.

Justice Fatiaki said she used several stratagems to convert rental monies collected from apartments tenants during her employment.

He said the matter came to light after a shortfall were noticed in the bank deposits of rental of Sewere’s fraudulent activities was uncovered.

He said despite the great punishment that offenders of this sort bring upon themselves, the court should nevertheless pass a sufficiently substantial term of imprisonment to mark publicly the gravity of the offence.

The Supreme Court judge said the sum involved is obviously not the only factor to be considered but it may in many cases provide a useful guide. He said the amount involved cannot be described as small and are less than Vt1 million or thereabouts, terms of imprisonment ranging from the very short up to 18 months are appropriate.

“But cases involving sums of between about Vt1 million and Vt5 million will merit a term of about two to three years imprisonment,” he said.

“Where greater sums are involved, for example those over Vt10 million, then a term of three and a half years to four and a half years would be justified”.

Justice Fatiaki said defence counsel Pauline Kalwatman wrote that pursuant to the restitution agreement reached between the Sewere and her former employer, she continued in her employment and repaid the total sum of more than Vt286,000 from her fortnightly wages.

Sewere also agreed to forego her leave and severance entitlement of more than Vt285,000 and she repaid a further sum of more than Vt140,000 after her termination from wages earned from her employment with the Department of Meteo and Climate Change.

The judge said that in December 2016, Sewere became a permanent employee of the Department on fortnightly salary of more than Vt57,000 but was suspended on half salary on June 26, 2018 pending the outcome of this case.

He said from the foregoing there is an unverified uncertain range for the amount converted by the defendant of between Vt4 to Vt6 million.

He then gave a Vt3 million to be considered in this sentencing accepting that she has already repaid a considerable amount.

After considering the aggravating factors, Justice Fatiaki adopted four years as the starting point in this case but reduced the sentence to 24 months after considering all mitigating factors.

He then suspended the imprisonment sentence for three years.

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