Former Director Jailed for Money Laundering and Theft

Former Director, Samuel Namuri. Photo: Kizzy Kalsakau

A former Director has been sent to jail for five years after he tried to obtain financial advantage by deception to the Government.

Samuel Namuri, the former Director of Public Works Department (PWD) was sentenced to an imprisonment term on three counts of obtaining financial advantage, totalling up to more than VT690,000.

Namuri was also sentenced on one count of theft of a Toyota Land Cruiser, one count of use of a vehicle for an improper purpose and an additional count of carrying business without a valid business license.

The former Director also admitted to three counts of money laundering over the truck deal.

Justice Andree Wiltens said that the maximum penalty for money laundering was raised by legislative amendments as of June 16, 2017 – very shortly after Namuri’s offending ceased.

He said that the maximum sentence now available for such offending is a term of 25 years imprisonment, reflecting the seriousness with which the Parliament regards this criminal type of conduct.

According to Justice Wiltens, the money laundering charges are the most serious charges faced by Namuri in which the court took them as the lead offending.

The judge said that in late 2014, to properly oversee the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) road remediation contract on Tanna Island, the Public Works Department required additional resources in the form of transport vehicles for inspection purposes.

The court said that Namuri as the Director of Public Works, the second most senior position within the Department, arranged for CCECC to purchase a vehicle for PWD to use for that specific purpose. That was not Mr Namuri’s true intent.

CCECC purchased the Toyota Land Cruiser and paid the associated organisation costs and Mr Namuri attended to obtaining exemptions for import duty and VAT in respect of the vehicle, due to the representation it would be used by Public Works Department on official government business.

As a result, Namuri obtained a new vehicle at no cost to himself but if he had purchased his own vehicle, it would have cost him more than VT4.8 million. Instead he arranged for CCECC to pay out a total of more than VT4.3 million and for the government to exempt more than VT510,000.

The court heard that as soon as he received the Toyota Land Cruiser from CCECC as the official PWD representative, Namuri commenced to use the vehicle as his own vehicle, starting from December 2014 to December 2015, and used the subterfuge to conceal the reality of the situation.

At the beginning of 2016, Namuri moved the vehicle to Tanna. He was dilatory in paying the shipping fees and eventually ended up paying less.

He was annoyed at being chased to pay the outstanding fees, and arrogantly advised the shipping company when short-changing them that PWD would never again use their service. He was purporting to use his official status in relation to a personal matter.

Justice Wiltens said that the former Director convinced a PWD driver to resign from his job at PWD and work for him by driving that vehicle in Tanna. He then arranged for Tafea Provincial Government Council to issue a public transport permit for the vehicle. That involved dishonestly on the part of Namuri as the vehicle was not his – it belong to and registered as a company vehicle in the name of CCECC, without any special permit.

Between May and September 2016, the former PWD driver earned more than VT572,000 for Namuri while driving the vehicle.

The Supreme Court said that Namuri held no business licence to be able to conduct such business. Additionally all funds collected were channelled through the bank account of Namuri’s brother to distance him from his illegal activity. But there were several withdrawals by Namuri in that account that confirmed his true position.

CCECC received no value for their provision of the vehicle to PWD. Their reputation was harmed when this case came to light, as there was suspicions the company was involved. Further PWD was also deprived of the additional resource it badly needed. When the matter was revealed, PWD reputation was negatively affected.

Justice Wiltens said that Namuri did extremely well out of this and everyone else involved suffered badly.

The Judge said that the court took note of his clean past record and cooperation with the authorities during the investigation of his case. The former director was given seven years imprisonment as the starting point.

Namuri stated remorse to the Probation Officer in which the court found hardly difficult to accept taking into account that the criminal offending only came to an end when it was discovered. He was 41 when the offence occurred. Namuri claimed to be the sole bread winner therefore he be given any credence.

After the final view the judge gave Namuri five years behind bars and ordered the truck to be returned to CCECC forthwith.

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