Supreme Court hands down Sentence for “Largest Amount Recorded Stolen in History of Samoa”

The Victim Impact Report stated that Ms Malifa was a, "master of deception..:

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The Supreme Court of Samoa handed down a 6.5 year sentence this week for what Senior Supreme Court Justice Vui Clarence Nelson noted as the “largest amount recorded stolen in the history of Samoa”.

Seira Malifa, 38, of Nuu-Fou and Safotu had entered an early guilty plea when she first appeared before the Courts in January 2023 charged with stealing $80k tala while working as a Loans Manager with ANZ Samoa Ltd.

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However as the Police investigation continued, Malifa was faced with a total of 323 charges amounting to close to $1.5 million tala in a scheme that was done from July 2018 until she was finally caught in November 2022.

Former ANZ loans manager Seira Malifa, Photo: LinkedIn page.

The Offence

During sentencing the Court heard how Malifa created new accounts under false names and then confirmed the accounts with false birth certification.

She provided false working confirmation letters from various employers in government and private companies and processed loans under these false accounts.

Malifa would then pass these on to other Managers for confirmation under her recommendation.

Once the loans are approved and transferred to bank accounts, Malifa would withdraw them using either a withdrawal slip or a cheque.

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Vui also highlighted the fact she never made any attempts to apologise to the victim or try to pay back some of the money stolen.

$1.2 million amount stolen.

Victim Impact Report

The Victim Impact Report highlighted how Seira Malifa used her position as a manager and her banking knowledge to manipulate the banking system and commit the offence.

The Victim Impact Report stated that Ms Malifa was a, “master of deception..”

“She is a strong confident person who bullies her staff and does not accept any opposition to her instructions..”

“The offence has impacted negatively on the victim’s reputation regionally, internationally and it’s relationship with customers.”

ANZ Samoa Bank Manager with ANZ Counsel Taulapapa Brenda Heather-Latu, in Court during sentencing, 5 April 2024.

Lawyer for ANZ Bank, Taulapapa Brenda Heather-Latu was in Court with ANZ Samoa Country Head, Sucharu Tandon, to hear the sentencing of what has been a long 18 months for the bank since the matter first emerged in November 2022.

Sentence

Justice Vui set the starting point for sentencing at 9 years, however, the Supreme Court Justice did call on the Samoa Law Reform Commission to review the maximum penalty for this type of offence.

The Courts made the usual deductions for the defendant’s early guilty plea which saved the Court’s time and money. Other mitigating factors included her cooperation with the investigation, and  being a first offender.

However, Justice Vui had also highlighted that Malifa made no attempts to apologise to her former employer. She also made no effort to pay back any of the money stolen.

The initial charges amounted to close to $1.5 million tala with the final amount after a few charges were removed, being around $1.2 million tala.

Seira Malifa has been sentenced to 6 and a half years at Tanumalala, less time spent in custody.

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