28/10/2021

BSP Bank officer sent to jail for stealing from clients account

A BSP Bank officer has been ordered three years jail term after she admitted seven counts of misappropriation amounting to almost VT4.2 million from six individual BSP clients without approval.

She was convicted accordingly.

Suzanne Kalo worked at BSP in Port Vila for seven years from 2011 as a bank teller.

Justice Andree Wiltens said that between January 2016 and June 2018, she stole almost VT 4.2 million from six individual BSP client amounts without approval.

Justice Wiltens said that the matter is not clear in the summary of facts, nor was she questioned about it by the Police but a formal complaint by BSP set out that bank staff had interviewed her and were advised by Kalo that she drew the funds from clients’ accounts through accessing her till.

She was taken through the BSP clients’ accounts and identified each of her defalcations, which were in the order of amounts up to VT 250,000 at a time. The defalcations were concealed by credits to the accounts, by the credits ended up not matching the debits.

The court said that it is unclear what the money was used for, but it is clear that reparation is not possible.

The court judge said that the maximum sentence for misappropriation is a sentence of 12 years imprisonment and this current offending has been aggravated by the value of funds taken, the repeat nature of the offending, the improbability of any reparation, the breach of trust, Kalo was a trusted and experienced employee, whose integrity should have been exemplary.

He said that the stealing occurred over a 30 month period, and the attempts were made to conceal the offending.

He said that there is no mitigating factor to the offending and later adopt a five years imprisonment as the starting point.

The defence lawyer Linda Bakokoto plead for a suspended sentence in this case but the Justice Wiltens said that any suspension would be too lenient to Kalo.

Kalo advised the Court that her partner would support the family from his earnings, while she will do the gardening that will enable her to pay VT15,000 per fortnight by way of reparation.

The judge said; “In my view, this is unrealistic. To be able to earn VT15,000 per fortnight net of expenses is problematic and does not take into account variations of climate and other factors. Even if able to earn that amount, to make full reparation would require over 12 years of such payments. I am sentencing on the basis of reparation not being available”.

He said that Kalo pleaded guilty at the first available opportunity. She had previously made a full admission to the Police; and prior to that to her employer.

It may be that BSP would have eventually discovered the full extent of the offending, but it is clear that Kalo assisted the BSP to identify the BSP clients involved and the individual suspect transactions involved.

In Vanuatu, the maximum discount available for a prompt plea is up to 33 percent and in Kalo’s case, the judge was satisfied that the full available discount is appropriate given her assistance prior to the police involvement.

Kalo is 36 years of age, with no previous convictions. She resides with a de facto partner; and together they have four children, one of whom is still particularly young and breastfeeding.

Kalo is currently unemployed. She will find it difficult to find further gainful employment given her admitted dishonesty to her previous employer.

There has not been a custom reconciliation ceremony. Ms Kalo has indicated that she is prepared to partake if the victims will allow that to occur.

The court later reduced four months after considering the teller’s personal factors, leaving an end sentence of three years of all seven-count to be served concurrently.

The sentence was then ordered to be served with immediate effect.