Perpetrators who steal from the public purse have been warned that they will feel the full brunt of the law once caught.
Madam Justice Laurie-Ann Smith-Bovell sent the stern warning today as she sentenced local businessman and well known managing director of Matrix Marketing Randolph St Clair Sandiford to four years in prison for theft of over $300,000 belonging to the Crown.
“Members of society must be made to understand that they cannot steal the Crown’s money and think that to pay back the money, which was never theirs to start with, is punishment. Too often this happens and when it happens there is no deterrent effect for the public,” the High Court judge stated.
“This is a serious matter and a custodial sentence is justified in this case as only such a sentence will have some deterrent effect . . . and would be adequate to protect the public.
“The victim here was the Government of Barbados through the Inland Revenue Department. It was denied the use of a substantial amount money, $307,238, none of which was paid back. And since Government has no money of its own you Mr Sandiford, in essence, stole from all tax-paying members of society,” Smith-Bovell added.
Sandiford, a long time businessman, at a previous session of the assizes pleaded guilty in the No. 4 Supreme Court to stealing from the Government of Barbados, $156,554 and $150,684 on January 13, 2004. The monies represented tax refunds, for which he never filed.
Prosecutor, Principal Crown Counsel Krystal Delaney at that earlier hearing detailed how the theft unfolded. She said that in February/March 2005 investigations revealed that Matrix Marketing, a furniture manufacturer, had been sent returns for the income years 1999 and 2000. But a check of the Inland Revenue Department’s computer system showed that there were no documents to support the two claims for income tax refund.
The probe also showed that the money received by Matrix Marketing was transferred from the account of Shell Western Supply and Trading Limited, an international business with its head office in Wildey, St Michael. The two companies are not connected.
When contacted by the deputy Commissioner of Inland Revenue, the now convicted businessman, the sole director of Matrix Marketing, indicated that he did not give anyone permission to file income tax on his behalf, neither had he filed any income tax returns on behalf of the company.
The two cheques, according to the investigations, were deposited in Matrix Marketing’s bank account with Sandiford’s signature attached. That same day he also bought a banker’s draft for the sum of $70,000 made payable to the Enterprise Growth Fund, to be applied for a settlement of a loan.
When asked by police whether he had received assistance from someone inside the Inland Revenue he replied, “Where my loyalties lies is a bitch.”
Through a probation report and via sentencing submissions by his attorney, Sandiford, of No. 2 Cumberland House, Spooner’s Hill, St Michael expressed a desire to repay the money. The indication was he would enlist the assistance of close associates to do so. But the judge said the “piecemeal” proposal was never executed.
“You therefore had the use of the Government’s money for at least 15 years and there is no likelihood that the government will be able to recover that money,” the judge added.
She described the offence as “complex” as it required someone within the Inland Revenue Department to bypass the internal controls and create a tax refund for Matrix Marketing.
“Up to the time of sentencing submissions, you failed to assist the police in identifying the individual within the Inland Revenue Department who assisted you. When asked about the insider you answered, ‘where your loyalties lies is a bitch’. This is a clear indication that you knew of the wrongdoing and the dishonest deed in which you participated.
“By refusing to identify the person you have contributed in leaving that individual open to continue to defraud the Government,” Justice Smith-Bovell stated adding that the fact that the money was stolen from an international company was also aggravating.
“The negative effect this theft would have had on the fledgling International business industry that the country was attempting to create at that time would have impacted on the public confidence within [that] sector.”
The aggravating factors for Sandiford, far outweighed the mitigating factors and in light of the circumstances the starting sentence of four years in prison was adjusted upward by a year.
However the judge contended that the businessman did not qualify for the one-third discount for his guilty plea and after outlining reasons she credited him with only “20 per cent”.
As of today Sandiford, who the judge said was by no means “a giddy-headed, young person”, but “business savvy” and one who should have known better, will spend 1,825 days, less 365 days, giving him 1,460 days to serve at Dodds, “which is in essence four years”.
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