Crime

Court of Appeal Acquits Five Men Jailed For BSP Bank Robbery

Josaia Usumaki (1st appellant), Tevita Sugu (2nd appellant), Kunal Prasad (3rd appellant), Deshwar Dutt (4th appellant) and Solomoni Qurai (5th appellant) were sentenced by the High Court in Suva by Justice Salesi Temo in February 2015.
06 Oct 2019 13:39
Court of Appeal Acquits Five Men Jailed For BSP Bank Robbery
The Bank South Pacific Samabula Branch after the robbery on September 19, 2012.

Five men convicted for the Bank South Pacific Samabula Branch robbery on September 19, 2012, have been acquitted by the Fiji Court of Appeal.

Josaia Usumaki (1st appellant), Tevita Sugu (2nd appellant), Kunal Prasad (3rd appellant), Deshwar Dutt (4th appellant) and Solomoni Qurai (5th appellant) were sentenced by the High Court in Suva by Justice Salesi Temo in February 2015.

Usumaki and Prasad were sentenced to 17 years and 12 years respectively with non-parole terms. Sugu, Dutt and Qurai were sentenced to four years and less.

Before that, two of the three assessors had found them not guilty. The third assessor fell ill during the trial.

Mr Temo, however, overturned their opinion and convicted the five.

What the judges said

Justices of Appeal, Justice S. Chandra and Justice A. Fernando agreed with the judgment and conclusions of Justice E. Basnayake to acquit the five.

Justice Basnayake said Usumaki was convicted on the basis of positive identification. He said the record showed that the witness had pointed to Sugu and he found no mistake in the typed script. He found the judge had erred in finding Usumaki guilty on identification evidence.

Justice Basnayake said the $1000 to $2000 Fijian currencies in Usumaki’s pockets were not identified as stolen from BSP Bank on September 19, 2012. The photographs of the $50 and $100 bills were of no value, he said.  He found no evidence to convict Usumaki.

Justice Basnayake said evidence available against Sugu, Dutt and Qurai also failed. He said the prosecution had failed to identify the money recovered from the appellants as belonging to the BSP.

Therefore, it failed to prove that the property recovered was stolen, he added.

Justice Basnayake said: “The only evidence is that some monies have been recovered.

“The amount allegedly robbed was $70,000.

“With that failure the prosecution failed to prove the appellant’s involvement in the robbery and the resultant offence.

“For those reasons I am of the view that charges against 1st, 2nd, 4th and 5th appellants have to fail.

“The charges against the 2nd, 4th,  and 5th,  appellants have been the commission of the offence of receiving stolen property contrary to section 306 (1) of the Crimes Act.

“On the failure to prove that the property was stolen, charges relating to section 306 (1) have to fail.

“On the same footing, owing to a failure to prove that the money recovered was from the loot, the robbery charge also has to fail.

On the evidence against the 3rd appellant, Justice Basnayake said the appellant had allegedly confessed to the charge statement for aiding and abetting the robbers of the BSP Bank. The appellant was found guilty of robbery under section 311 (1) of the Crimes Act.

Failure of prosecution

Justice Basnayake said: “Even if there was a confession, on the failure of the prosecution to prove the involvement of the appellant to the robbery, this charge too has to fail.”

He said for all these reasons, he set aside the judgment of the High Court judge and allowed the appeal. He then acquitted the appellants.

Usumaki, Prasad and Dutt appeared in person. Sugu was represented by S Waqainabete and S Nasedra appeared for Qurai.

The prosecution was represented by A. Jack.

The judgment was delivered on October 3, 2019.

Edited by Ranoba Baoa

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