Samoa is sending a strong warning to international criminals that they will be caught, prosecuted and punished.
The message comes from the Office of the Attorney General with the conviction of two Chinese tourists who skimmed $70,000 from local A.T.M machines.
In her submission at the hearing, lawyer for the Attorney General’s Office, Lupematasila Iliganoa Atoa, said Samoa would not tolerate criminals who come here “taking advantage of the vulnerability of our small country.”
The Chinese had used A.T.M skimming devices and counterfeit cards to steal more than $70,000 from the Bank of South Pacific.
The defendants Yang Quigreen and Zhong Shuiming, who are under police custody, are represented by lawyer, Alex Su’a.
In her submission, Lupematasila recommended four and half years jail terms. Presiding is District Court Judge Fepuleai Ameperosa Roma.
The court heard from Lupematasila that the crime was preplanned and premeditated.
The defendants arrived in Samoa on August 2016 and two days later they managed to steal from eight different A.T.M’s at Papauta, Vaitele and Apia. This case is not a one-time offense. Another aggravating fact, “this is the first case of its kind in Samoa.
“Where persons bring card skimming devices and counterfeit cards for the purpose of stealing monies albeit from overseas account using B.S.P Samoa ATM machines.”
The lawyer said the Samoan electronic finance systems have not been exposed to such fraudulent conduct before and this is the first case of its kind.
The defendants have clearly taken advantage of and used their advanced knowledge and system of fraud to steal from the Samoan A.T.M outlets.
“This heavily aggravates the offending in this matter.”
The prosecutor went on to say this is not an ordinary case.
“This is a complicated fraud carried out by two defendants who not only travelled to Samoa as visitors but for the purposes of using their skimming devices as well as their counterfeited cards to steal monies.”
She reiterated this case is the first one in Samoa.
“The Court should set a deterrent message not only to the public but also to the international world of the consequences of such conduct if committed in Samoa. “In order to deter like minded criminals like the defendants from taking advantage of the vulnerability of our small country and the systems in place.”
Lupematasila further noted that sentencing should reflect the defendants are held accountable for harm done to the bank. She points to the seriousness of the offending by the defendants.
“Offenses of this type have become prevalent in our community and the court has endlessly cited the need to deter this and future offenders from this kind of behavior. “Each of these offenses carries a penalty of imprisonment for several years signifying they are serious offenses in our society.
“The seriousness of these offences is also evident from Legislative action which implies that Parliament considers these offenses so grave that it justifies an increase in their respective maximum penalties.”
Sentencing has been scheduled on 5 July 2017.
Last month the pair were convicted following a lengthy hearing. The defendants were initially charged with 16 charges however prior to the trial, they both pleaded guilty to four charges.
These include intentionally accessing the A.T.M. without authority; theft of $9,700; theft of $1,000; theft of $12,500. The total amount for this is $23,200.
During the trial, two more theft charges were dismissed, leaving 10 other counts which were the subject of the trial.
For theft charge in the amount of $24,900, they were found guilty in the lesser sum of $19,150; theft of $16,200 they were found guilty in the lesser sum $12,400; theft $6,150 they were found guilty in the lesser sum $3,100; theft of $23,950 they are found guilty in the lesser sum of $11,700; theft of $15,700 they were found guilty in the lesser sum of $1,000.
They were also found guilty of intentionally accessing A.T.M. without authority with the purpose of committing a crime of dishonesty.
They were however acquitted of three theft charges, involving two separate withdrawals of $300 each and theft of $20,500. Total amount for these theft charges was $47,350.