Accused former-Gov't official claims she dropped $15k

A former Government employee accused of stealing $15,000 claims she dropped the funds on her way to the bank to deposit it. 

The trial of Mary Nerisa Galuega, who previously worked in the Ministry of Prime Minister and Cabinet, began in the Supreme Court on Thursday morning. 

She pleaded not guilty to one count of theft as a servant in an incident that took place in April 2018 when she was employed with the M.P.M.C. 

Ms. Galuega is represented by lawyer Unasa Iuni Sapolu while Attorney General’s Office lawyer Ann Matalasi is the prosecutor. 

The former senior accountant of M.P.M.C., Sanita Tusani Miti, was the first to give evidence. 

Ms. Miti told the Court that the revenue from Immigration for permits and new passports was given to Ms. Galuega to deposit at the A.N.Z. Bank in April 2018. 

She said on that day the accused was given the funds which included cheques and U.S. dollars to deposit into the Ministry’s account. 

The witness recalled that when the accused returned to the office she left the banking bag on her table. 

And when she opened it to check for the receipt of the deposits, there was only one receipt for the U.S. dollars, but there was no receipt to account for the other $15,000. 

Ms. Miti said she then asked the accused where the other receipt was but claimed that she must have forgotten and left it with the teller at the bank.

“I heard her talking on the phone and she asked James if he has seen the receipt if it was left on his desk,” said the witness. 

“I could hear her say okay she will pick it up on Monday [next week] and then hung up. She told me that she had forgotten it on the teller's desk and will pick up the next week when she does banking again.”

Since that day, Ms. Miti said she continued to follow up with the accused on where the receipt was, but was constantly told the bank teller was on leave and she will get it the next day.

Ms. Miti said it wasn’t until another day she got to work when she was told that the accused felt sick and was taken to the hospital. 

She told the Court two other work colleagues had told her that the accused wasn’t sick and instead there was something bothering her.

She said it was then that she was told that the accused claimed she lost the money and was afraid to tell her. 

The Court heard that the accused only banked the U.S. dollars and not the Samoan dollars and cheque. 

In her evidence, Ms. Miti said they had issued a stop order to the banks for the cheques that went missing from the funding.

Justice Tafaoimalo Leilani Tuala –Warren presided over the matter. 

The case has been adjourned to 3 November 2021 for the verdict. 

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