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Supreme Court

Criminal
1354 of 2020
21 Jul 2020
16 Oct 2020
Justice Oliver Saksak
Public Prosecutor
Filiami Baleratu
Mr Simcha Blessing for Public Prosecutor; Ms Linda Bakokoto for Defendant

SENTENCE

1. Filiami Baleratu pleaded guilty to 68 counts of obtaining monies by deception on 21st July 2020 contrary to section 130B of the Penal Code Act [CAP 135] (the Act). He is now appearing for sentence.

2. The maximum penalty of this offence is 12 years imprisonment.

3. The facts are that from June 2019 through February 2020 the defendant obtained monies from the following people-

(a) June 2019      
  VT 10.000 from Jacques Molvara-   Count 1
 (b) November 2019     
   VT 15.000 from Micheal Kalsakar  Count 2
   VT 15.000 from Junior Felix   Count 3
   VT 15.000 from Sonia Karen Pakoa-   Count 4
   VT 12.000 from Robert Boblang  Count 5
   VT 15.000 from Jimo Jimmy  Count 6
  VT 15.000 from Andrew Harry Count 7
  VT 12.000 from Robert Boblang Count 8   
  VT 12.000 from Francois Kalsakar Count 9
  VT 12.000 from Alomis Kalsakar Count 10
  VT 12.000 from Tony Jeffrey Taga Count 11
  VT 15.000 from Joel Ngwele Sara Count 12
     
  VT 12.000 from Rasel Kalowi Count 13
  VT 12.000 from Alice Philip Count 14
  VT 15.000 from Linda Laua Count 15
  VT 15.000 from Kalo Ishmael Count 16
  VT 15.000 from Jennifer Sampet Count 17
  VT 15.000 from Kalter Kalsulik Count 18
  VT 15.000 from Gideon Kaltapu Count 19
  VT 15.000 from Helena Iaput Count 20
  VT 15.000 from Tara Taga Count 21
  VT 12.000 from Rasel Kalowi Count 22
  VT 10.000 from Commi Elijah Count 23
(c) January 2020    
  VT 20.000 from Tom Terter Count 24
  VT 12.000 from Micheal Kalosik Count 25
  VT 12.000 from Salome Lewia Johnson Count 26
  VT 12.000 from Jimmy Samuel Count 27
  VT 12.000 from John Surao Count 28
  VT 15.000 from Hilda Watas Count 29
  VT 15.000 from Daniella Kalosik Count 30
  VT 15.000 from Mersani Luvu Cullwick Count 31
  VT 15.000 from Nike Malverus Count 32
  VT 12.000 from Kalros Kalangis Count 33
  VT 15.000 from Meto Tasso Count 34
  VT 15.000 from Raymond Kalsakau Count 35
  VT 15.000 from Devrina Tari Count 36
  VT 12.000 from Kalo Ishamael Count 37
  VT 20.000 from Tom Terter Count 38
  VT 15.000 from Jacques Harry Count 39
  VT 10.000 from Jacques Harry Count 40  
  VT 10.000 frm Valerie Philip Count 41
  VT 15.000 from Rosinda Viti Count 42
  VT 15.000 from Lucy Maltery Count 43
  VT 15.000 from Narau Failet Count 44
  VT 12.000 from Anita Kalses Count 45
  VT 12.000 Rejel Nepnep Count 46
  VT 12.000 from Anita Kalses Count 47
  VT 12.000 from Erman Sumsum Count 48
  VT 10.000 from Sali Lala Count 49
  VT 10.000 from Pierre Tasal Count 50
(d) February 2020    
  VT 15.000 from Kalsaf Kalsakau Count 51
   VT 10.000 from Noe Nalet  Count 52
  VT 15.000 from Taronmal Areng Namal Count 53
  VT 15.000 from Kalsaf Kalsakau Count 54
  VT 10.000 from Naenalet Count 55
  VT 15.000 from Jocelyne Sese Count 56
  VT 10.000 from Yanno Yale Count 57
  VT 15.000 from Yir Kalta Felix Count 58
  VT 15.000 from Rose Yamak Count 59
  VT 12.000 from Bilsen Kalses Count 60
  VT 15.000 from Renzo Robert Count 61
  VT 15.000 from Suzanne Keinoho Count 62
  VT 15.000 from Martine Lamai Count 63
   VT 15.000 from Suznne Kainolo Count 64
  VT 15.000 from Silas Naulas Count 65
  VT 15.000 from Rini Kalomuana Count 66
  VT 15.000 from Peter Iamak Count 67
  VT 10.000 from Claude Tom Count 68

The total amount he collected deceptively was VT 924,000.

4. The defendant became jobless after he was terminated from 2 previous employments. He needed quick cash and therefore started a fraudulent scheme whereby he introduced himself to the public as an agent of Seasonal Employer Scheme (“RSE”). He obtained monies and promised them contracts for and on behalf of farming companies in New Zealand. He told persons he would use monies to pay for their medical examinations, visas, passports, ID photos and other relevant documents, None of these things ever materialised. The complainants made formal complaints to the police. Investigations were made and the defendant was arrested and questioned under caution. He made admissions.

5. The defendant used up all the monies he collected for own use and benefit. None of the money collected was recovered.

6. The offendings were planned. There were repetitive. They were committed on simple citizens in dire need of employment and money. There was a serious breach of trust. The defendant seemed to have enjoyed what he was doing. He has caused a huge loss to 68 people who are obviously affected financially and mentally as a result off the defendant’s deceptions. I consider these are the aggravating features of this defendant’s offendings.

7. I consider that the defendant’s case is far more serious than that of Bong v PP [2020] VUCA 19 but obviously less serious than Tari and Mala cases.

8. There are absolutely no mitigating circumstances warranting the commission of this offence repeatedly over 68 times.

9. Considering the totality of the circumstances, together with the seriousness of the offences committed, I set the starting sentence to be one of 3 years imprisonment.

10. I therefore sentence the defendant to 3 years imprisonment on each of 68 counts, to be served concurrently. This means the defendant has a total concurrent sentence of 3 years imprisonment.

11. He is 35 years old. He is married with children. He is relatively educated. He is skilful in cooking and is an ambitious cook with a small catering business. He cares for and looks after his family well. He is in good health and does not drink kava or smoke cigarettes.

12. He has not performed any reconciliation ceremony but expresses willingness to make repayments. He has so far made repayments to 5 victims.

13. Had a clean criminal record. He admitted his actions to the police and made admissions to the Court on the plea day. I am prepared to give him the full 1/3 reduction for this factor. His sentence is reduced therefore by 1 year.

14. I allow a further 6 months for his other mitigating factors and personal factors. His end sentence is therefore 1 years and 6 months imprisonment.

15. As to whether or not his sentence should be suspended, I do not see any exceptional circumstances to warrant such a course. There is therefore no suspension of sentence.

16. Finally I take into account the period the defendant has spent in custody. I therefore backdate his end sentence to 23rd February 2020.

17. The defendant has a right of appeal against this sentence within 14 days if he does not accept it.

DATED at Port Vila this 16th day October 2020
BY THE COURT

OLIVER.A.SAKSAK
Judge