Employee theft is far more prevalent than is realised. In criminal law, this can give rise to offences of embezzlement and larceny. The crime of embezzlement refers to the stealing of property before an employer obtains possession of it. Here the property is received by the employee on behalf of the employer. If possession has already passed on to the employer and the employee subsequently steals it, then that is larceny. The law treats both offences very seriously – the maximum penalty is 10 years imprisonment.

Both offences are provided for in sections 156 and 157 of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW):

Section 156 Larceny by clerks or servants

Whosoever, being a clerk, or servant, steals any property belonging to, or in the possession, or power of, his or her master, or employer, or any property into or for which it has been converted, or exchanged, shall be liable to imprisonment for ten years.

Section 157 Embezzlement by clerks or servants

Whosoever, being a clerk, or servant, fraudulently embezzles, either the whole or any part of, any property delivered to, or received, or taken into possession by him or her, for, or in the name, or on the account of, his or her master, or employer, shall be deemed to have stolen the same, although such property was not received into the possession of such master, or employer, otherwise than by the actual possession of such clerk, or servant, and shall be liable to imprisonment for ten years.

On 4 February 2016, the Sydney Morning Herald ran an exclusive report on what might potentially be one of Australia’s largest fraud cases in recent years: staff at Commonwealth Bank are alleged to have ignored the signs of, or facilitated, a Ponzi scheme involving about $76 million. The alleged masterminds in this case are facing almost 100 fraud and deception offences.

It is alleged that millions of dollars were taken through forgeries for development projects which never transpired. Funds held in specific accounts for clients are also reported to have been misappropriated without their knowledge or consent.

The criminal law treats these offences seriously as they jeopardise the integrity of Australia’s economy and the credibility of other financial management institutions. In the case reported by the Sydney Morning Herald, customers of the bank suffered financial losses because of clandestine money transfers between accounts, which were carried out to avoid detection by the bank.

HOW CAN WE HELP YOU?

At Nyman Gibson Miralis, we understand that those who may face such charges are often anxious to avoid criminal prosecution. We have assisted many clients in cases involving fraud and embezzlement offences. The aim is always towards achieving the best outcome for the client, which is an approach that looks out for the client’s interests. In these cases, our lawyers have always taken immediate action to facilitate a swift resolution of the matter.

Example: An accountant was alleged to have embezzled over $500,000.00 from his employer.

The employer invited the accountant to explain various discrepancies in their account books – this was when the accountant realised that his fraudulent conduct had been detected.

Nyman Gibson Miralis were instructed to engage in a round-table conference with the employer and their legal representatives, and after a 7-hour conference, arrived at a resolution. A deed of release provided for confidentiality of the matter and a bar against civil proceedings against the accountant. The result ensured that the matter was dealt with in a low-key and decisive way.

Nyman Gibson Miralis’ understanding of the legal process will greatly assist clients in achieving the best outcomes.

If you are under investigation for fraud or embezzlement offences, speak to one of our lawyers today. Our lawyers have a wealth of experience in providing expert advice. This can often make a great difference in how the matters is resolved.