NEWS

Five WOMEN Get Long Jail Terms

A judge yesterday told five women and two men that corrupt activities by public officers adversely and seriously affect the fundamental fabric of society. Justice Thushara Rajasinghe made the remarks
11 May 2017 11:40
Five WOMEN Get Long Jail Terms
From left:Vaciseva Lagai was sentenced to eight years imprisonment by the High Court in Suva on May 10, 2017. Photo: Ronald Kumar Ana Laqere was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment by the High Court in Suva on May 10, 2017. Photo: Ronald Kumar

A judge yesterday told five women and two men that corrupt activities by public officers adversely and seriously affect the fundamental fabric of society.

Justice Thushara Rajasinghe made the remarks in the High Court in Suva before he sentenced six former Public Works Department workers (five women, one man) and a businessman for abuse of office and causing a loss of $362,944.37 to the Fijian Government.

He said public officers “are the intermediary link between the State and Public.

“They are appointed to implement and provide the duties, re sponsibilities and the protection undertaken by the State towards the public.

“In pursuant of a collective social contract between the State and the Public, the Public hand over their individual and collective rights to the State, entrusting the State the responsibility and duty to provide and protect those rights of the public.

“This Social Agreement provides the legitimacy for the functioning of the State. Hence, it is paramount to the State to maintain high standard of transparency and integrity in performing its duties and responsibilities through the public officers.

“Otherwise, the trust and the confidence entrusted by the public on the State would erode, leading to catastrophic end of the State and the society.”

He said because of the seriousness of the offences and its adverse effects on the public and State, the court had to impose heavy and severe punishment as a deterrent to protect the community.

He said Ana Laqere and Laisa Halafi were the main perpetrators of the crimes. Laqere, he added, was the mastermind behind the scam and Halafi acted as the liaison of it.

The others charged by the Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption (FICAC) were former PWD employees Amelia Vunisea, Vaciseva Lagai, Vilisi Tuitavuki, Kiniviliame Taviraki and businessman Shelveen Narayan.

All except Narayan had pleaded guilty.

Narayan is the owner of On Time Stationery Supplies, Shavel Stationery Supplies and Phoenix Hardware Engineering and Supplies Ltd.

The offence was committed between March 15, 2010 and August 2010.

Laqere, charged with one count of abuse of office and 35 counts of causing a loss, was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment with a non-parole period of eight years.

Vunisea, charged with one count of abuse of office and 34 counts of causing a loss, was sentenced to eight years imprisonment with a non-parole period of six years.

Halafi, charged with one count of abuse of office, 13 counts of causing a loss and one count of obtaining a financial advantage was sentenced to nine years and 11 months imprisonment with a non-parole period of seven years and 11 months.

Lagai, charged with one count of abuse of office and nine counts of causing a loss, was sentenced to eight years imprisonment with a non-parole period of six years.

Tuitavuki, charged with one count of abuse of office and five counts of causing a loss, was sentenced to eight years imprisonment with a non-parole period of six years.

Taviraki, charged with one count of abuse of office and two counts of causing a loss, was sentenced to six years imprisonment with a non-parole period of four years.

Kiniviliame Tavairaki was sentenced to 6 years imprisonment by High Court on May 10th, 2017. Photo: Ronald Kumar.

Kiniviliame Tavairaki was sentenced to 6 years imprisonment by High Court on May 10th, 2017. Photo: Ronald Kumar.

Narayan, who had pleaded guilty to one count of obtaining a financial advantage, was sentenced to four years imprisonment with a non-parole period of three years.

Businessman, Shelvin Narayan was sentenced to 4years imprisonment by High Court on May 10th, 2017. Photo: Ronald Kumar.

Businessman, Shelvin Narayan was sentenced to 4 years imprisonment by High Court on May 10th, 2017. Photo: Ronald Kumar.

The former PWD employees had done arbitrary acts for the purpose of gain in facilitating the processing of false payments to be made to three companies namely, On Time Stationery Supplies, Shavel Stationery Supplies and Phoenix Hardware Engineering and Supplies Ltd.

Justice Rajasinghe stated that according to the evidence produced in court, a total of 101 transactions were made to the three companies through 60 cheques.

A total of $86,319.04 was paid to On Time Stationery Supplies and Shavel Stationery Supplies while a sum of $276,625.33 was paid to Phoenix Hardware Engineering and Supplies Ltd.

Narayan, when giving evidence as the prosecution witness had stated that he had deposited money into the account of Halafi’s late husband.

Laqere was the head of the accounts section at PWD and it was stated in court that she was not able to detect the irregularities and $362,944.37 was paid to companies without any due process and procedures.

Vunisea was the assistant accounts officer and she was charged for signing blank cheques.

During the trial Vunisea, while being cross-examined, admitted signing cheques without proper source documents and she also admitted that she abused her power and caused a loss to PWD.

Halafi was a typist and a purchasing officer and it was stated in court that she was caught destroying evidence when FICAC began its initial investigations.

Lagai was the assistant accounts officer and she had certified false payment vouchers without the due process and procedures of checking that it was in accordance with the Local Purchasing Order (LPO).

Tuitavuki was a temporary relieving officer and a cashier and Taviraki was a senior technical officer.

Narayan also was a main player in committing this crime.

 

Vilisi Tuitavuki was sentenced to 8 years imprisonment by High Court on May 10th, 2017. Photo: Ronald Kumar.

Vilisi Tuitavuki was sentenced to 8 years imprisonment by High Court on May 10th, 2017. Photo: Ronald Kumar.

Amelia Vunisea was sentenced to 8 years imprisonment by High Court on May 10th, 2017. Photo: Ronald Kumar.

Amelia Vunisea was sentenced to 8 years imprisonment by High Court on May 10th, 2017. Photo: Ronald Kumar.

Edited by Jonathan Bryce

Feedback: jessica.gounder@fijisun.com.fj

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