Prosecution proposes jail term for former bank manager

The Attorney General's Office is proposing a jail sentence for a former Bank South Pacific branch manager for stealing $358,940. 

Prosecutor Ann Matalasi during sentencing submissions pointed out the breach of trust by the defendant Aitogi Iakopo Salanoa who oversaw the operations of the B.S.P. in Salelologa. 

However, defense counsel, Arthur Lesa, pleaded for the Court’s leniency before Supreme Court Justice Leiataualesa Darryl Clarke on Wednesday. 

Salanoa entered the guilty plea to all charges through her lawyer in relation to the 19 charges of theft as a servant and falsifying documents from November 2019 to May 2020 during her tenure as the head of the B.S.P. branch. 

The defendant is suspected to have embezzled the money by accepting loan applications using fake accounts.

Matalasi said that Salanoa on eight separate occasions in the span of eight months created eight new accounts with B.S.P. under fictitious names and used it on eight loan applications using fictitious documents. 

The fictitious accounts are as followed: Tausaga Isaia, $18,000; Matofai Faa’la $12,000; Samasoni Aiono $20,000; Samaeli Toilolo $30,000; Elisaia Tifaga $20,000; Samato Siao $26,000; Reupena Masalosalo $30,000; Lumana’i Fa’atulu $19,000 and the total amount of loans approved under fictitious accounts amounted to $175,000.

The prosecutor further alleged that in May 2020 the defendant attended three separate A.T.M. located around Savaii and stole money from each of the machines. 

“The defendant would steal the actual cash and would proceed to input incorrect figures on the cash count sheet to match what was inputted in the machines so that the A.T.M. was balanced.” 

According to the prosecutor, for the A.T.M. at Salelologa the defendant stole $38,000; Tuasivi $70,000 and from the Fagamalo outlet a total of $75,000 and the full amount unlawfully removed from the machines was $183,940. 

“As a branch manager of Savaii, the defendant stole a total of $358,940 from her [former] employer the B.S.P.” 

The defendant is facing 11 counts of theft as a servant which carries a maximum jail term of 10 years for each charge. The defendant is also facing eight counts of forgery which also carries a jail term of 10 years for each charge. 

The prosecution submitted there is a breach of trust in the case and with the defendant being a branch manager, there is no doubt that managerial trust came higher and the prosecution submits there is a significant breach of trust. Also the significant amount in this offending. 

“This is not a one off offending it is a multiple offending and there is a high level of premeditation involved and the module of theft shows that defendant’s actions were properly calculated.” 

For restitution, defense counsel Lesa advised the court that the defendant made efforts to pay half of the money stolen from the bank, while emphasizing that Salanoa is a first time offender. “The defense respectfully seeks this honorable court for leniency in relation to the offending and the sentencing; the defendant realizes it's inevitable that the conclusion of this is a custodial sentence,” said Lesa. 

He added that Salanoa’s professional career is now unlikely to proceed and that she will have to live with the implications of her action. 

The defendant was taken into the custody of the police Wednesday afternoon with sentencing scheduled for Thursday afternoon. 

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