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Vakaloloma, Ben Padarath Given Suspended Sentence For Forgery

Vakaloloma, Ben Padarath Given Suspended Sentence For Forgery
Ben Padarath outside the Suva Magistrates Court on August 22, 2018. Photos: Fonua Talei
August 23
16:41 2018

A convicted senior lawyer was yesterday lectured about his work ethics by the Chief Magistrate after he copped a suspended sentence for a forgery case.

Aseri Vakaloloma was told by Chief Magistrate Usaia Ratuvili that he had brought disrepute to the noble profession.

Vakaloloma was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment suspended for two years for a charge of forgery alongside his co-accused, Benjamin Padarath, who was sentenced to 14 months imprisonment suspended for two years.

The pair appeared at the Suva Magistrates Court.

Both men were convicted after a full trial for forging the Articles of Association of BECP Engineering Construction (Fiji) Limited between October 14, 2009 and December 31, 2009 with a false page 27 by altering the subscription for Adishwar Padarath to Voreqe Bainimarama to be used as genuine.

In mitigation, Vakaloloma’s lawyer Filimoni Vosarogo submitted that he is 62-years-old, was admitted to the bar in 2002 as a legal officer and worked at the Ministry of Health, Legal Aid Commission, Family Court as Deputy Registrar and the Land Transport Authority.

Up to the day he was convicted Vakaloloma was the principal of the firm Vakaloloma and Associates and in that period he mentored numerous legal practitioners.

While requesting the court to consider the time it took to dispose the case, Mr Vosarogo stated that it had been seven years since his client was charged in 2011, and nine years since the actual offence was committed.

“You are sorry for what has happened and you submit that this was a momentary lapse of judgment to have acted on instructions that you ought to have been more diligent with,” Chief Magistrate Ratuvili said.

“You have lost your practicing certificate and your only source of income and this was the only source of income for the family.”

Padarath’s written mitigation stated that he did not gain from the offending and there was no sophisticated planning for the offence.

He added that he was in a position to rehabilitate himself.

The Fiji Independent Commission against Corruption (FICAC) submitted that the aggravating factors was the seriousness of the offence of forgery which warrants an immediate imprisonment term and the use of the Prime Minister’s name which had the potential of misleading business people and citizens at large.

Furthermore, FICAC submitted that Vakaloloma’s previous good conduct carries very little value in mitigation because he had breached his duty to the court and his professional ethics.

“You Aseri Vakaloloma can be considered as a senior counsel and you failed in your professional duty in following instructions that surely should have seemed irregular to you,” Chief Magistrate Ratuvili stressed.

“Benjamin Padarath as the client you also should have known better than to have exposed your counsel in this matter.”

While suspending the two men’s sentence in the interest of justice, Chief Magistrate Ratuvili said the length of the proceedings was relevant because the time period was four times the maximum penalty for forgery which was two years imprisonment.

Edited by Caroline Ratucadra

Feedback:  fonua.talei@fijisun.com.fj

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