Criminal Law

The oldest trick in the book

The Nigerian scam has been around for so long that no one falls for it anymore, right? Wrong. Just last week a Christchurch woman was convicted for stealing $452,000 (!) from her employer and which she transferred all to Nigeria.  She did so over quite a long period of time, which raises the question how she was able to conceal the theft  from her employer.  Her employer was HERTZ Car Rentals and she worked as a credit controller, but still.

Its also interesting that she only got convicted for (13x) ‘dishonestly using documents” pursuant to s228 Crimes Act 1961:

Every one is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 7 years who, with intent to obtain any property, service, pecuniary advantage, or valuable consideration,—

  • (a) dishonestly and without claim of right, takes or obtains any document; or
  • (b) dishonestly and without claim of right, uses or attempts to use any document.

I would have thought she would be charged with ‘”Theft by persons in special relationship” (formerly also known as ”Theft by servant”), pursuant to s220 Crimes Act, which applies

to any person who has received or is in possession of, or has control over, any property on terms or in circumstances that the person knows require the person—

  • (a) to account to any other person for the property, or for any proceeds arising from the property; or
  • (b) to deal with the property, or any proceeds arising from the property, in accordance with the requirements of any other person.

(2) Every one to whom subsection (1) applies commits theft who intentionally fails to account to the other person as so required or intentionally deals with the property, or any proceeds of the property, otherwise than in accordance with those requirements.

From an employment law perspective, theft  goes to the heart of the relationship and justifies instant dismissal. Plus the employer is entitled to and can claim for damages. If the employer already got reimbursed by his insurance, the insurance company has legal standing to sue. Whether that is going to happen will probably depend on the chances of recovery – the article notes the woman is the owner of a $400,000 property, held in a family trust and probably out of reach for any civil claims.

Well, at least someone in Nigeria will be laughing this week.


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