Tightened security at Bank of South Pacific

By Joyetter Feagaimaali’i-Luamanu ,

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Judge Fepulea’i Roma Ameperosa.

Judge Fepulea’i Roma Ameperosa.

The Bank of the South Pacific (B.S.P.) has implemented a multimillion dollar project “to enhance security features for all bank cards and banks electronic devices.” 

This follows the incident where two Chinese men stole over $70,000 from B.S.P.’s Automated Teller Machines (A.T.M.s). 

This enhanced security is indicated in the Victim Impact Report by B.S.P. Samoa’s Country Head, Taituuga Maryanne Lameko-Vaai submitted to the District Court, during the sentencing of the defendants. 

Last week District Court Judge, Fepulea’i Roma Ameperosa sentenced Zhong Shuiming and Yang Quigreen to five years jail.  

 The men were represented by lawyer, Alex Su’a with Lupematasila Iliganoa Atoa as the Prosecutor. 

According to the Victim Impact Report (V.I.R.) that was read out by Judge Ameperosa dated May 5, 2017 “B.S.P. suffered a financial loss of $197,000. 

“Whilst the accounts you [defendants] stole from are held overseas, B.S.P. has had to refund all overseas customers who had put in claims for loss of funds.” 

Judge Ameperosa also noted the total amount proven in court was $70,550 which is less than half the sum claimed by the Bank in its V.I.R.

 Additional funds the V.I.R. says, were also spent to put security guards in place at its office site ATM’s following the arrest of the defendants. 

“A multimillion dollar project had since been underway to enhance security features for all cards and banks electronic devices,” noted Judge Ameperosa. 

He further noted the V.I.R. by the bank noted the offending has “inconvenienced all international and travelling card holders due to the reduction in access limits for all overseas cards used on B.S.P.’s A.T.M.s. 

“There has been pressure on staff in compiling reports and evidence and the consequent need to review the bank’s internal processes. 

“There have been disruptions to the Bank’s daily businesses which have impacted its customer service. 

“B.S.P. has also experienced a loss of reputation. The V.I.R. states that the safeguarding secured access to customer funds is a key element of business. Though none of the account holders in Samoa were directly impacted, customers in general started to question the security of their funds and safety of B.S.P.’s electronic network to access their funds,” stated Judge Ameperosa. 

He also noted during the sentencing, the consideration by the court on the impact on the overseas customers who held accounts in Saudi Arabia which the defendants accessed and stole from here in Samoa. 

Judge Ameperosa also noted that from the evidence before the court, the banks’ loss would be settled by B.S.P. pursuant to an international agreement with VISA and Master Card companies. He pointed out the bank’s unnecessary trouble they have gone through to recover their loss is what the court took into account. Following the hearing last month, Judge Fepuleai pointed out the defendants were initially charged with 16 charges.  

However prior to the trial, they both pleaded guilty to four charges.  These include intentionally accessing an A.T.M. without authority; theft of $9,700; theft of $1,000 and theft of $12,500. The total amount for this is $23,200.  

During the trial, two more theft charges were dismissed, leaving 10 other counts which were the subject of the trial. 

For the theft charge in the amount of $24,900, they were found guilty in the lesser sum of $19,150; theft of $16,200 they were found guilty in the lesser sum $12,400; theft $6,150 they were found guilty in the lesser sum $3,100; theft of $23,950 they were found guilty in the lesser sum of $11,700; theft of $15,700 they were found guilty in the lesser sum of $1,000.  

They were also found guilty of intentionally accessing the A.T.M. without authority and intentionally accessing A.T.M. without authority with the purpose of committing a crime of dishonesty. 

They were however acquitted of three theft charges, involving two separate withdrawals of $300 each and theft of $20,500. 

The total amount for these theft charges was $47,350. 

During the hearing Shirley Pauga, Manager of the Retail Banking of the Bank of the South Pacific, told the Court the men targeted the A.T.M. at Matautu first. 

“Matautu was the first machine where we captured most of the cards (that had been swallowed). 

“From there, we saw most of the transactions were rejected by the machine for the reasons that I’ve mentioned before like, invalid pins and so forth.” 

The Bank then sent an A.T.M. Officer to investigate and he found footage of the two Chinese men. 

“Te’i told us that these two men were also at Tanugamanono the previous day when they went to check the machine.” 

She said they had recovered nearly thirty cards. 

“These cards all look the same,” she said. “Its colour is blue and black. “The only stuff on the card, is the word VIP on the top left corner and five digit numbers down the bottom. 

“They all look the same except different digit numbers at the bottom.” 

Shirley Pauga said the cards were different from B.S.P.’s cards.

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