Samoan Church official named and sentenced for fraud

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Auckland, September 22, 2017

An employee of the Samoan Independent Seventh Day Adventist Church (SISDAC) has had name suppression lifted and has been sentenced in a Serious Fraud Office (SFO) prosecution.

Elizabeth Papu (52) faced two charges of ‘Theft by person in special relationship’ relating to approximately $1.6 million of offending while she was finance administrator of the Northern Division of SISDAC.

Background information

SISDAC was established in New Zealand in 1980 when a small group of individuals broke away from the Seventh Day Adventist Church. SISDAC was registered with the Companies Office as a charitable trust on September 29, 1980 and was registered under the Charities Act 2005 on June 30, 2008. Its charitable purpose was assessed as advancing religion. Since its establishment in New Zealand the Church has expanded into Australia, Samoa and the USA.

Charities Services initiated an investigation into SISDAC in October 2013 after which its concerns were referred to the SFO and a Part 2 investigation began in June 2015.

Guilty plea

Appearing in the Manukau District Court on Thursday, September 21, 2017, Ms Papu’s name suppression was lifted. Ms Papu was charged in February this year and in May pleaded guilty to all charges. Today she was sentenced to two years, nine months’ imprisonment.

Ms Papu admitted that she took money from the Church without authorisation and manipulated the financial records of the church to hide her actions.

Gambling habit

She stole from the Church in order to fund her gambling habit.

SFO Chief Executive Julie Read said, “Ms Papu had full responsibility for the Church’s bank accounts. That authority to record transactions and reconcile bank statements allowed her to manipulate the church’s financial records and disguise her theft. The absence of any segregation of duties or oversight in respect of Ms Papu’s role created the opportunity for her to misappropriate the Church’s funds.”

Serious Fraud Office Press Release

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