Gambling Control Authority staff admit fraud

I.T. workers at the Gambling Control Authority (G.C.A.) admitted staff manipulated the online betting system to defraud the authority, the Supreme Court heard on Thursday. 

Laau Tuivanu, A Principal IT officer at the G.C.A., made the bombshell fraud admission on the witness stand as she testified in the trial of three former Authority employees who stand accused of stealing from their employer.

Five other former staff have already been fined by the Supreme Court for their involvement in defrauding the authority.

The hearing in the Supreme Court on Thursday was presided over by the Chief Justice, His Honour, Satiu Simativa Perese.

Defendants Silika Hala, Lui Feseetai and Talosaga Wales Amosa have pleaded not guilty to theft as a servant charges.

Hala had one charge of making a false statement causing harm to a person withdrawn, leaving two counts of theft charges for the prosecution to proceed with. 

According to the prosecution, Hala worked for the G.C.A. mainly to sell bonuses. However, it has been alleged that he used bogus sales methods and did not keep records of transactions in order to defraud the company.

Two other defendants worked as operators where they sold tickets for Australian gambling giant T.M.S. Australia and sold Samoa Sports Lotto tickets. 

Tuivanu told the court that the G.C.A. operators were able to defraud the authority by simply pulling the plug from the power while a ticket was being processed. 

He said when the system was switched off the transaction would be registered as incomplete and not register in the system.

The IT officer further testified that the methods allegedly used by the accused allowed them to sell transactions without ever processing them. 

“This means the transaction was not complete,” he said,

“When the operator report is prepared after the shift this ticket is not declared on the report.”

Lawyer Steve Chan Chui, representing Feseetai, asked Tuivanu how he knew that his client was the one using the machine on the day in question, when suspicious activity was discovered.

He said his client had in fact worked in the G.C.A.’s finance division and had been accused of stealing money from the machines last year on 4 December.

Tuivanu  said during staff shortages other employees such as those in the finance division, such as Feseeta,would be brought to cashier stations to operate the machines. He said normally staff would inform their supervisors about which employee was operating which machine. 

Lawyer Tanya Toailoa, who is acting for Amosa, also queried Tuivanu about a practice in the office where multiple staff used one log-in password for the computer system, potentially casting doubt on who was logged in at any one time.

The IT officer said they could easily identify which person was on a machine in question by matching it with the time they were slotted to work on the workstation. 

The lawyer asked Tuivanu if it was possible that another employee could have been using the machine assigned to her client and wondered how he could keep track of which staff were using which machine. 

Tuivanu said such switches breach office protocols and procedures and should not happen.

He said there would be no reason why a person on a rostered day off would turn up to work and begin using another staff station and accompanying cash box. 

The lawyer then queried Tuivanu about the power outage which he said was blamed for the manipulation of the system. 

Tuivanu was adamant that the computers were fitted with Uninterrupted Power Supply technology, giving the operator enough time to process a ticket in the event of an outage. 

Hala is being represented by lawyer Fuimaono Sarona Ponifasio. 

The hearing continues.

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