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$285,680 FSC theft

Margaret Wise
Thursday, December 14, 2017

A LAUTOKA woman who helped her husband siphon $285,680.96 from the Fiji Sugar Corporation has been jailed for five years.

While Preetika Anuwesh Lata's husband, Sudhanshu Sharma, was the mastermind behind the crime, High Court judge Justice Aruna Aluthge said she was a key player.

He said to carry out a sophisticated "white collar" crime, a considerable degree of pre-planning was involved.

"A new bank account was opened to receive proceeds of the crime," he said.

"It had been arranged by you and your husband apparently to flee the country either to Australia or the USA. Your husband secretly fled to the USA and you deliberately suppressed this information from authorities."

Mr Sharma absconded to the US after the theft was discovered.

He joined the FSC as a payroll officer in 2012 when a new payroll processing software was implemented.

Lata was charged and convicted of one count of dishonestly receiving the funds between February 2013 and May 2014.

She was also charged and convicted of money laundering, for receiving the cash, knowing it was derived from unlawful activity.

The court heard Mr Sharma fraudulently transferred FSC funds to his and his wife's bank accounts.

Lata returned $169,640 when police began investigations, however, Justice Aluthge said her conduct and evidence produced during the trial showed she had played a significant role in the commissioning of the crime.

"You knew very well you were not entitled to receive any payment from the FSC," Justice Aluthge said.

"Still you kept on receiving proceeds of the crime and withdrew and used it for your family's expenses.

"Before investigations began your husband suddenly resigned from FSC and fled the country to the USA."

Justice Aluthge said an internal audit revealed FSC money had been deposited into Lata's two bank accounts.

Lata was also handed a two-year sentence for receiving but both sentences were to be served concurrently.

The judge also imposed a two-year non-parole period.

Lata has 30 days to appeal the sentence.

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