A father of four has been sentenced to 12 years in prison after he was found guilty of stealing more than Vt8 million.
Danken Hinge, 32, admitted eight counts of forgery, contrary to section 140 and 10 counts of theft against section 125 under the Penal Code Act [CAP 135].
Hinge also admitted one count of unlawful entry, contrary to section 143 of the Penal Code.
Justice Oliver Saksak said the amount was stolen over a period of 16 days — March 14 to 30, 2016.
He said Hinge used more than Vt3.5 million.
Over Vt4.9 million has been frozen in his account at the National Bank, this will be released back to Youth Challenge Vanuatu, where he was previously employed as the Finance Officer.
But despite the imprisonment term, Justice Saksak made a restitution order directing Hinge to repay more than Vt3.5 million he used while in prison. He said the amount should be paid in full after two years after which he will be released on parole.
Justice Saksak sentenced Hinge to six years imprisonment for unlawful entry as the starting point, six years for forgery and six years for theft.
Justice Saksak then made an order allowing the penalty of theft and forgery to be served concurrently in count 1 and 2 but said the sentence will be served consecutively with count 3 and count 4, extending the imprisonment period to 12 years in isolation.
He later made another order for the six years sentences in count 5, 6 and 7 to be served concurrently but would be consecutively run with the terms in count 1, 2, 3 and four – a total of 18 years behind bars.
He said the rest of the 12 counts of forgery and theft (count 8 to count 18) will be served concurrently but will be consecutive with the sentences imposed in count 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 taking it to the final starting point of 24 years imprisonment.
Justice Saksak was very clear in his decision by imposing consecutive sentences, saying the offences were repetitive on different dates.
He said that the principal of proportionality cannot be achieved in this case unless consecutive sentences are imposed for the different dates when the offending was repeated.
He said the offending started in March 14, when Hinge entered the Youth Challenge office and stole electronic equipment, a chequebook and more than Vt216,000 in cash.
He said on March 21, Hinge forged Shirley Abraham’s signature on an ANZ Bank cheque and stole more than Vt220,000.
On March 25, Hinge forged the same signature and cashed more than Vt1.5 million.
Justice Saksak said on March 30, Hinge forged more signatures and cashed out huge amounts from six different cheques starting from more than Vt189,000, Vt90,000, Vt75,000, Vt115,000, Vt394,000 and Vt5 million.
He said Hinge stole more than Vt7.8 million in forgery.
The Vt1 million plus worth of electrical equipment he stole brought the total to more Vt8 million.
He mentioned the repeated offending and said there was a certain degree of planning on his part.
He said Hinge was in a position of trust at the time but he abused this.
“Taking those aggravating features into account together with the seriousness of the offences you have committed, I could not agree less with the prosecution that your offending warrant custodial sentences,” he said.
He said the custodial sentence will mark: the seriousness of the offending, the disapproval and condemnation of the court and public of his unlawful actions and a deterrence of his action and other likeminded person.
Justice Saksak said the penalty will also be served to protect the public and financial institutions and adequately punished him for what he has done.
After considering the mitigation factors of past clean record, the only breadwinner at home and good educational background as well as cooperation with the police, his sentence was reduced to 18 years imprisonment.
The court then considered the guilty plea at the earliest opportunity, reducing the term to a final sentence of 12 years to be spent behind bars.
He backdated the sentence to April 3, when he admitted the offence and was taken into custody.