NEWS

Magistrate Warns Public Servants Against Corruption

A magistrate yesterday told Viliame Katia, who took over $4 million as acting Deputy Official Receiver, that his maximum 14-year jail sentence was a reminder to other public officials. Suva
02 Jun 2017 14:24
Magistrate Warns Public  Servants Against Corruption
Viliame Katia being escorted by a Police officer at court on June 1, 2017. Photo: Vilimoni Vaganalau

A magistrate yesterday told Viliame Katia, who took over $4 million as acting Deputy Official Receiver, that his maximum 14-year jail sentence was a reminder to other public officials.

Suva Magistrate Shageeth Somaratne warned if they used their position for personal gains, they had to be prepared to serve a long period in Correction Centres.

Katia, 37, had pleaded guilty on 11 counts of corruption that included forgery, abuse of office, embezzlement, false information, unauthorised modification of data, and obtaining a financial advantage.

Magistrate Somaratne said: “In my view, this maximum sentence would be adequate to denounce your criminal behaviour for such a long period of time for these multiple crimes.”

He told Katia: “It would also prevent you from enjoying your ill-gotten gains which you failed to return to the complainants up to now.

“I would like to finish your sentence with the following words. The public officials are appointed to serve the people in this country.

“The public is entitled to expect the highest standards of conduct, honesty and integrity from them.

“When some of these officials see this opportunity as one for their personal benefits by corrupt practices, then the country faces a bleak future.

“When the majority is struggling to make a living in this country, it is a disgrace to witness people who have the benefit of good education and good fortune of a job in the civil service should subvert that service for personal gains.”

Katia caused a total loss of $4,118,447.43 to the Office of the Official Receiver’s Bankruptcy and Liquidation accounts from 2008 to 2015.

He had pleaded guilty to all the charges.

Magistrate Somaratne said: “The accused committed these offences for the purpose of gain….

“Both parties agreed that based on the nature of offending and your culpability, the tariff for this offence would be from eight to 12 years imprisonment.

“Accordingly, I select 10 years as the starting point for each count of abuse of office for gain under the Crimes Act.”

The aggravating factors were the gross breach of trust, the repetitive and systematic breaches of procedure, the amount of money involved, no restitution or attempt at restitution, the motivating factor of greed, the high degree of planning and the number of victims.

Magistrate Somaratne said: “There were two accounts under your management namely the bankruptcy account and liquidation account.

“Using your high position and authority you managed to siphon out a total of $4,118,447.43 from these two accounts for your personal gain.

“Undoubtedly this is a gross and prolonged breach of trust from your part.”

For mitigating factors, the court considered that Katia is married with three children, is a first time offender, has learned his lesson, and has sought another chance and is remorseful.

Magistrate Somaratne said: “I can’t turn a blind eye to the nature and seriousness of your offending.

“From 2008 to 2016 whilst working as the acting deputy official receiver in the office of the official receiver, you dishonestly obtained nearly $4m for your personal benefit by preparing forged emails, making unlawful data entries in the computer and giving false information to other public officials.

“I do not think a court in Fiji has ever come across such magnitude of corruption by a public official.”

Katia received a non-parole period of 12 years.

Edited by Caroline Ratucadra

Feedback:  jessica.gounder@fijisun.com.fj



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