Look­ing at Cor­rup­tion Cases

Fiji Sun - - EXPLAINER - Jy­oti Pratibha Feed­back: jy­otip@fi­jisun.com.fj

Ju­di­cia­ries’ world over have of­ten taken a hard line against cor­rup­tion and abuse of of­fice. And this has been the best de­ter­rent in some of the more de­vel­oped na­tions world­wide.

Abuse of of­fice par­tic­u­larly has been a charge most frowned upon. Which is why some re­cent cases in Fiji where pub­lic of­fi­cials who were con­victed of cor­rup­tion re­lated ac­tiv­i­ties and given sus­pended and partly sus­pended sen­tences comes as a sur­prise and rea­son for some con­cern.

What is more wor­ry­ing is the lack of con­sis­tency in sen­tences of those con­victed of cor­rup­tion cases.

Re­cently, Fiji In­de­pen­dent Com­mis­sion against Cor­rup­tion won some cases but was it re­ally a win?

■ Let’s look at these cases:

A for­mer Fi­nance Clerk with the iTaukei Land Trust Board (TLTB) was sen­tenced to two years im­pris­on­ment, sus­pended for three years by the Nau­sori Mag­is­trates Court. Adi Filom­ena Serau was charged by the Fiji In­de­pen­dent Com­mis­sion Against Cor­rup­tion last July with one count of Ob­tain­ing a Fi­nan­cial Ad­van­tage.

She ad­mit­ted to re­ceiv­ing cash pay­ments made to TLTB and not de­posit­ing it into the ac­count of her em­ployer amount­ing to $12,174.90 FJD, which she used for her­self.

This took place be­tween June and De­cem­ber 2017. In de­liv­er­ing the Sen­tence, Res­i­dent Mag­is­trate Shageeth So­maratne said that by com­mit­ting this of­fence, the Accused breached the trust of her em­ployer and the pub­lic who were de­posit­ing funds to the TLTB.

Then was the case of Taniela Kepacavu who was jailed for 12 months cus­to­dial and had his 8 months sen­tence sus­pended for 2 years for ob­tain­ing $8000.

He was the as­sis­tant pro­vin­cial trea­surer for the Bua Pro­vin­cial Coun­cil and $8620 which was to be de­posited in the Bua Naulumatua Ac­count, the Bua Prov­ince Schol­ar­ship Ac­count and the Bua Rest House Ac­count was in­stead used by him for per­sonal use. His case was be­fore Mag­is­trate Bim­sara Jagodage at the Labasa Mag­is­trates Court. And, then we have the case of Ravi­nesh Sa­gar who was jailed for 18 months cus­to­dial im­pris­on­ment for ob­tain­ing $196.

Sa­gar was charged with fal­si­fy­ing re­ceipts of $196. He was jailed by Mag­is­trate J. M. Bo­sei­waqa. Sa­gar was a rev­enue col­lec­tor at the Colo­nial War Me­mo­rial Hos­pi­tal where he fal­si­fied two re­ceipts and pock­eted $196.

All above not only shows the le­niency but also a vast in­con­sis­tency.

Three cases all re­lated to cor­rup­tion and the case with high­est amount stolen re­ceived the most le­nient sen­tence when the mat­ter was very se­ri­ous, where landown­ers were robbed of their dues.

Sin­ga­pore is con­sid­ered one of the least cor­rupt coun­tries in the world. They did not achieve this feat overnight.

Sin­ga­pore has strong anti-cor­rup­tion laws and a pow­er­ful cor­rupt prac­tices in­ves­ti­ga­tion bureau.

The Sin­ga­porean Ju­di­ciary take mat­ters of cor­rup­tion very se­ri­ously. The sen­tences they handed out be­came de­ter­rents for others and it worked out very well for them.

Abuse of of­fice, cor­rup­tion are not light charges.

They are very se­ri­ous in na­ture and need to be dealt with just as se­ri­ously.

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