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Friday, 04 January 2013 14:58

Fines for forgery quashed on appeal

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Mrs M.E. Collet, an employee of the department of Finance at the defunct District Council of Grand-Port/Savane, who was convicted by the Intermediate Court to pay Rs 10,000 fine in respect of each of the 12 counts of information for forgery in a private writing for which she was found guilty, has been acquitted on appeal before the Supreme court.
In a ruling delivered two weeks ago the appeal bench consisting of Justices Ashraf Caunhye and Prithiviraj Fekna has allowed the appeal and quash the conviction.

“The learned Magistrate proceeded to convict the appellant on the basis that there had been actual prejudice caused to the payees,” the bench concluded. “He never considered that there could have been any prejudice to the District Council or at least any prejudice “possible or eventual” but instead erred in reaching the conclusion on the issue of prejudice that there was an actual loss to the payees, while all the payees had testified that they had received their pay by direct debit from the District Council. There is therefore no evidence of any prejudice suffered by any of the payees as wrongly found by the Magistrate. For all the above reasons, we consider that the judgment is wrong and the conviction cannot stand. We accordingly allow the appeal and quash the conviction.”

The information lodged before the Intermediate Court charged the appellant with 15 counts of forgery in a private writing and with 15 counts of the offence of making use of a forged private writing in breach of section 108 (a), 111,112 and 121 of the Criminal Code. The charge was that the appellant had made use of a forged private writing to wit a cheque which had been forged by counterfeiting the signature of the payee on the verso of the cheque. In his judgment the Magistrate dismissed the 15 counts of forgery as well as the 3 counts of making use of a forged private writing. Appellant was convicted in respect of the remaining 12 counts of making used of a forged private writing.

Mrs Collet was sentenced to pay a fine of Rs 10,000 under each count and Rs 500 as costs. The present case is connected with a huge fraud at the Grand Port/Savane District Council spanning over several years from 1991 to 2004. The fraud concerned a large number of cheques drawn on behalf of the District Council. The appellant was working in the Finance Department and was responsible for preparing the monthly payroll which includes all the details of the employees’ pay as well as the deductions, allowance, travelling and overtime.

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