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$4 Million Thief Katia Gets 23 Years

Justice Temo: Greed was your motivation and you will have to learn that greed does not pay.   Viliame Katia will spend 23 years in jail for corrupt-related offences, following
29 Dec 2018 10:00
$4 Million Thief Katia Gets 23 Years
Viliame Katia outside the high court on December 28,2018.Photo:Simione Haravanua.

Justice Temo: Greed was your motivation and you will have to learn that greed does not pay.

 

Viliame Katia will spend 23 years in jail for corrupt-related offences, following a judgement made yesterday by High Court judge Justice Salesi Temo.

The judgement is believed to be one of the harshest sentences as far as corruption cases are concerned.

Katia is charged by the Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption (FICAC) with three counts of abuse of office for gain, four counts of forgery, one count of embezzlement by servant, one count of false information to public servant, one count of unauthorised modification of data and one count of obtaining financial advantage amounting to more than $4 million.

While sentencing Katia, Justice Temo said: “You literally stabbed your employer in the back by stealing $4 million plus from it.”

Katia is sentenced to 23 years imprisonment with a non-parole period of 22 years for stealing more than $4 million for more than eight years of his employment.

Particulars of offence:

Katia had abused the authority of his office by making payments to himself between July 1, 2008 to January 14, 2016, while he was employed in the Public Service and involved a sum of $4,119,447.43. He had created false emails and internal memos stating creditors were willing to accept reduced payments from their bankrupt debtors.

These payments were then sent from the official receiver’s bankruptcy account to his own.

Appeal against earlier sentence:

Katia, who was sentenced to 14 years imprisonment by the Nausori Magistrates Court, had appealed against his sentence, which was dismissed by Justice Temo.

FICAC had also appealed against Katia’s sentence on the grounds that the sentence was too lenient, which Justice Temo had ruled in favour of.

Yesterday’s ruling:

Justice Temo said the level of deceit and evil Katia had perpetuated among his co-workers and supervisors to steal the money was the height of all evil.

“You smiled at them and behind their backs, stole the $4 million plus. You made a mockery of not only the Official Receiver’s Office but also the High Court, by pretending to be a judge issuing court orders. You had made no restitution or attempted to do the same. You have not explained where the money is, nor how it was used.

“It appears you are willing to serve a short prison sentence, come out and enjoy the fruits of your crime. I need to punish you in a manner that is just in all the circumstances and in the interest of justice.

“The sentence is designed to punish you in a manner to protect the community from people like you, to deter other would-be offenders like you, and to signify that the court and community denounce what you did to the Official Receiver’s Office between July 1, 2008 and December 31, 2015,” Justice Temo said.

He also highlighted that the offence was a serious breach of employer’s trust.

“As an employee, you are supposed to be honest and hardworking to your employer. Your employer trusted you and promoted you to acting deputy official receiver on July 7, 2008. However, you stole $4 million from them.

“What you have done was unthinkable. In the past 24 years I had served on this bench, this is the first time I had witnessed a civil servant steal $4 million plus from a Government entity, for his own personal use. You had grossly abused the trust placed on you.

“You basically showed your co-workers and supervisors no mercy in engineering the 1,415 fraudulent transactions which enabled you to steal the $4 million plus from the employer.

“In a sense, you were like a computer virus to the Official Receiver’s computer system and office. You had not only undermined the Official Receiver, you had also undermined the permanent secretary and the Minister for Justice. You had also undermined the creditors whose $4m plus you stole.

“Greed was your motivation and you will have to learn that greed does not pay. I therefore plead with you not to complain when a lengthy prison sentence is given to you. Why should you benefit from the fruits of your crime when the majority of the people of Fiji were working honestly for their money?”

Katia has 30 days to lodge an appeal against his sentence to the Fiji Court of Appeal.

Edited by Naisa Koroi

Feedback: ashna.kumar@fijisun.com.fj

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