Former bank manager jailed for $350k theft

A former bank manager has been jailed for 42 months for stealing over $350,000 from her former employer while working in Savai'i.

The former Bank South Pacific [B.S.P.] branch manager for Salelologa, 41-year-old Aitogi Iakopo Salanoa, has been sentenced to three years and six months imprisonment by the Supreme Court.

The judgement was delivered on Thursday afternoon by Justice Leiataualesa Daryl Clarke.

Salanoa had pleaded guilty to 11 charges of theft as a servant and eight counts of forgery. The total amount of money embezzled in the offending is more than $350,000. 

According to a summary of facts, the former bank manager created fake accounts to approve eight loan applications, which she then cleared and approved the false applications that she later on withdrew. 

The amount of money approved in those loan applications range from $12,000 to $30,000 and total $175,000. 

In March this year she also stole money from the bank’s A.T.M. machines on three separate occasions totaling $183,000. The court heard that this was done by entering incorrect cash counts for the A.T.M. machines.

In her pre-sentence report, the court heard that the mother of five children has a bachelor's degree from Victoria University, and was employed by a banking institution in Brisbane in 2009 before she and her husband decided to move back to Samoa in 2015. 

She was appointed as the BSP branch manager at Salelologa in 2018. The victim of the offending is the Bank South Pacific. 

According to the victim’s impact report, the accused had apologised and made efforts to repay back $172,000 to the institution. 

Her former employer B.S.P. had also asked for the court’s leniency towards the accused claiming she has suffered a lot from the events. 

Salanoa, in her pre-sentence report, claimed that her actions were driven by financial pressure to construct her home at Aleisa as well as the theft of building materials from that project. 

But Justice Clarke made it clear that her actions are no excuse for what she did and added that she is a thief herself when she tried to make up for what was stolen from her.

A seven years imprisonment was taken as the starting point in totality for Salanoa’s offence.

Justice Clarke then deducted time for her apology and remorse and for restitution and handed down a sentence of three years and six months.

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