A MAN of Vanuatu descent has been jailed for seven years for money laundering by the High Court in Suva.
Between August 6 and 24 in 2009, Johnny Albert Stephen, 42, received $17,420.90 and disposed of it knowing or should have known that it was derived from illegal activities.
On September 25, 2009, Stephen again received $21,440.56 through the same means.
The court heard that in early 2010, the father of six came in contact with a man named David Turner (DT), who he had never met and only contacted him by email and phone.
Judge Justice Paul Madigan said Stephen acceded to the suggestion of business and agreed to have his bank account made available to DT for those purposes.
The court heard that DT was to remit US$15million to Stephen, which was to be invested for DT.
"These funds were locked in the Bank of America in the US and could only be unfrozen and remitted to the accused on the payment of taxes to the bank," Justice Madigan said.
"The money to pay these taxes would be credited to the accused's account by DT and they were then to be sent on to a named lady in Washington State, US who DT said worked for the Bank of America and she would use the money to settle the outstanding taxes.
"Stephen received two amounts of $6210 into his account in August 2009 which he sent on to the lady as instructed.
"In September, he received $5000 which he sent. Most of the remittances were made through the Western Union remittance service.
"In September 2009, his account was credited with $21,440 by telegraphic transfer from the Cook Islands; however, he was unable to remit these funds to Washington because he was arrested on the same day," Justice Madigan said.
The court heard that Westpac Bank officers gave evidence that two amounts of $6210, $5000 and $21,440 were fraudulently taken from the accounts of genuine bank clients who were tricked into divulging their passwords and PIN numbers online.
Justice Madigan said the clients' accounts were accessed online and the amounts transferred to Stephen's bank account.
"It must also be a factor in sentencing for this crime that if there is an international element to the transactions, then it becomes a stain on Fiji's banking reputation," Justice Madigan said.
"Fiji in terms of development and geographical position is a hub of commercial activity in the Pacific, and any assault on the legitimacy or integrity of that system is very serious indeed."
Justice Madigan sentenced Stephen to seven years imprisonment and set a non-parole period of five years.