Crime

Fijian woman, now a NZ Citizen who scammed more than $350,000 from Ports of Auckland tried to cover tracks, court hears

The Crown says a woman accused of scamming the publicly-owned Ports of Auckland out of more than $360,000 worked with her partner to create false documents after learning investigators were hot on their tails.

Litia Rokele Vuniduvu has denied 50 charges of dishonestly using a document and is on trial at the Auckland District Court.

The Crown says Vuniduvu claimed the money from the Council-owned ports company where her partner, Paul Bainbridge, worked as an IT manager and oversaw an $8.4 million budget.

Litia Vuniduvu denies submitting 50 invoices for work that was never done.

Her lawyers say she was deceived by Bainbridge.

But in the early stages of the investigation, Detective Sergeant Benjamin Bergin told the court messages between the pair on phone app WeChat shows they worked long hours over some days, creating documents.

Bergin seized phones, tablets and other devices as part of the investigation.

Some of the WeChat messages were read to the court on Thursday.

Vuniduvu: “This is a nightmare, Paul.”

Bainbridge: “Yes it is.”

Vunidvu: “Just so you know, I keep thinking I will wake up and [find] this is a bad dream.”

In the conversations, Vuniduvu talked about being hopeful she would be paid for the last invoice she submitted.

The pair also discussed creating documents.

The Crown’s case is the pair attempted to make it appear to investigators that Bainbridge asked Vuniduvu to carry out the work for the ports company.

Port of Auckland

“I will print and scribble on them before I put them away in the files,” Vuniduvu says in one of the messages.

She also said she will use different coloured pens on the documents.

Vuniduvu told Bainbridge: “This is the only proof they cannot fight” and “this will save you, honey”.

She told Bainbridge that she was “born to be a problem solver” and that doing damage control “comes naturally”.

“I hope you are following me, Paul. Try to stop with the family stuff. This is serious s…. My vibe is super strong at the moment and you need to listen to my vibe.”

She told Bainbridge that she was putting a case together for his defence.

Vuniduvu also talked about getting their stories straight “… so when or if we are placed in different rooms to be questioned… so I know everything and anything”.

Straddle carriers working at the Fergusson Container Terminal

Bergin told the court a forensic analysis of the tablet showed the creation of documents at this exact time. The device’s internet search history showed Vuniduvu had searched IT terms and jargon, consistent with the work she said she was carrying out for Ports of Auckland.

“We’ve got this. The smartest thing you did is loving an intelligent woman and not a dumb one… and one who is a fighter.”

She also told Bainbridge of her love for him and that their bond would only be broken by death.

She also discussed her concerns about the investigation, telling Bainbridge that he was now fighting for his life.

“If they dig deep and investigate the laptops, then we are f….d.”

Later she told Bainbridge: “Now I’m in some serious legal f…-up that is about to destroy my life.”

Bainbridge tried to assure her that everything would be OK.

He has previously been convicted in relation to the matter and is serving a term of imprisonment.

Ports of Auckland is owned by Auckland Council and returns a $51m dividend to the council every year.

The trial, before Judge Jonathan Down and a jury, has been set down for eight days.

Source: Stuff.co

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