Tome acquitted of $1.3m embezzlement charge

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Court has acquitted Early Childhood Education teacher Cecilia Samani Tome over allegations she withdrew $1,387,756.30 that was mistakenly deposited into her ANZ bank account.

Principal Magistrate Tearo Beneteti acquitted her when defence filed a no-case-to answer submission, saying she did not have a case to answer to the allegation made by prosecution.

Ms Tome was charged with one count of embezzlement by public servant.

The allegation said Tome, of Faumamato village, Manaoba, Malaita Province, between December 7, 2017 and July 24, 2019, being employed by the Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development as class teacher in Hatodea Early Childhood Education Kindergarten School, did fraudulently apply for her own use the sum of $1,387,756.30 without the consent of Ministry of Finance and Treasury.

The accused is an employee of the Solomon Islands Government and she was alleged to have embezzled the government by withdrawing $1,387,756.30 after she was mistakenly paid $3,806,297.77.

The case was tried by paper, counsel did not choose to call any witnesses nor cross-examine any witnesses as it was agreed that all evidences were not contested, the only issue was to legally argue for their respective theory of case and do submissions based on the evidence relied upon by Prosecution.

Defence Lawyer Rodney Manebosa after assessing the evidence provided by the prosecution argued that the prosecution had failed to explain and highlight clearly the defendant’s actions that is fraudulent in nature in all the transaction of the whole matter.

Manebosa said prosecution’s analysis shows that the innocence of the defendant and her role in not doing anything at all in the transactions cannot be right and fair to then blame her and accuse her for being fraudulent in her dealings especially when she received and used the money from and through her own personal bank account.

He argued the failure of prosecution makes it a weak case for them as this element of the offending is already absent and is not sufficient in their view. Therefore, the court must rule in their favour that they have no case to answer in light of the charges laid against the defendant.

Meanwhile Magistrate Beneteti said, “I am dissatisfied prosecutions has provided sufficient evidence for the elements highlighted and discussed and must therefore rule that there is no case to answer for the defence and acquit the defendant accordingly.”

She said of all analysis provided based on all the evidence exhibited and submissions filed by both prosecutions and defence, the court is of the view that prosecution has failed in many aspects to sufficiently provide evidence.

Office of the Director Public Prosecution appears for the crown