Supreme Court finds former public servant guilty “beyond reasonable doubt” of fraud

Fakahalaia'i 'i he fakamaau'anga 'a Viliami Latu ko ha tangata ngāue fakapule'anga 'i Vava'u ke ne mo'ua ki hono kākaa'i e pa'anga 'a e pule'anga' 'o ne ma'u ai ha pa'anga $1,200.

The Supreme Court has convicted former public servant Viliami Latu of one charge of fraud.

On the first count, Latu was charged that on June 20, 2017, while employed as a Government servant at the Ministry of Finance and National Planning, he made false entries in the Main Cash Book with intent to defraud.

On the second count, he was charged that between September 2016 and June 2017, at Neiafu, he fraudulently converted to his own use $1200 entrusted to him by virtue of his employment  as a Government servant.

Lord Chief Justice Paulsen said Latu began working at the Vava’u branch of the Ministry of Finance and National Planning in 2015. The office handles the public revenue  and disbursements of Government Ministries operating at Vava’u.

Latu was the second in command in the office. He was the Senior Accounting Officer and had duties which included checking vouchers for payment of Government debts, maintaining leave and attendance records and maintaining and balancing the Main Cash Book which recorded the total of all revenue and expenses each month. 

“Latu was a senior Government servant who was familiar with the rules and procedures which applied to the receipt and expenditure  of Government  money and the maintenance of the office’s records relating to it,” the judge said.

“He understood that  he  was required  to maintain  accurate  records and of  the importance of doing  so.”

Another  employee  in  the  office,  Lesieli  Halafihi, has already been convicted of taking government money that was under her control. On occasions Latu asked Halafihi to give him money from her drawer. Miss. Halafihi gave him the money when he requested it and he spent it for his personal needs.

Lord Chief Justice Paulsen said Latu  was  a  poor  witness  and gave different explanations in his record of interview and his evidence of the reasons he made the entries as he did.

“However, he generally maintained that the entries were, to his mind at least, not false and had been completed correctly in accordance with his understanding of what was required,” the judge said.

“He also said that it was usual that the Main Cash Book was given to the Sub-Treasurer to confirm that it was correct after he had prepared it.

“Despite his senior position and  experience, in  the unusual circumstances  of  this case it has not been proven beyond reasonable doubt that Latu wilfully made false  entries intending  to defraud  any person  by them.”

Lord Chief Justice Paulsen found Latu not guilty on the first charge.

On the second charge, the judge said he was satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that as a Government servant Latu had fraudulently converted to his own use TP$1,200 of Government money.

He was therefore found guilty on the second charge.

The main points

  • The Supreme Court has convicted former public servant Viliami Latu of one charge of fraud.
  • On the first count, Latu was charged that on June 20, 2017, while employed as a Government servant he made false entries in the Main Cash Book with intent to defraud.
  • On the second count, he was charged that between September 2016 and June 2017, he fraudulently converted to his own use $1200 entrusted to him as a Government servant.

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