A former Accounts Clerk for the Wainikoro Fisheries Co-operative was convicted and given a reduced sentence of 18 months imprisonment by Magistrate Anare Tuilevuka in the Labasa Magistrates Court yesterday.
In sentencing, Magistrate Tuilevuka said that Savenaca Labavuka, 24, had abused a high degree of trust that was placed on him by his employers and stakeholders.
Magistrate Tuilevuka added that Labavuka had made no attempt to explain his actions or to what use he had put the money he had stolen.
Magistrate Tuilevuka said that "It was obvious that a lot of thought went into planning the thefts and that Labavuka wasted no time at all since he committed the offences immediately after commencing work at Wainikoro."
Legal Aid lawyer, Mr Maitava who represented Labavuka is also noted as saying that he did not receive any instructions from his client.
The Court noted that despite Labavuka’s offer for reparation, it doubted that it was the accused’s genuine attempt because it was being offered in court at a rather late stage, following conviction; some three years or so after the offences were committed.
"The reparation you offer today gives the impression of a calculated attempt to escape a custodial sentence. And in any event, I accept Mr. Madigan’s observation that you clearly do not have the means to pay reparation now or at any time in the foreseeable future," the Court stated.
In conclusion, Magistrate Tuilevuka commented that though the amount stolen was relatively small, he considered Labavuka’s actions to be a bad breach of trust.
Labavuka was initially sentenced to 24 months imprisonment which was increased to 30 months for aggravating features. This was again reduced to 27 months for mitigation features and further reduced to 18 months for pleading guilty on the first opportunity.
Labavuka who had pleaded guilty to six counts of ‘Larceny by servant’ on 10th November was prosecuted by FICAC.
On six separate occasions between May and July of 2005, Labavuka had taken money amounting to about $3000 from Cooperative’s Imprest Account.
The Co-operative is one of three projects established through a joint venture between the Japanese and the Fiji Government to develop a co-operative and bilateral relationship in the field of fisheries.
FICAC Deputy Commissioner, Mr. George Langman said the conviction and sentence was testament of the tireless effort of the Commission’s officers.
"FICAC has a committed team of staff and today their efforts have been rewarded despite criticisms that the Commissions has not progressed since its inception in April 2007," Mr. Langman said.
"I owe this to my officers for their detailed work that will not allow defense to challenge our cases that has been brought before the Courts," said Langman.