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Silversea Australia hit by A$3.6m fraud

A bookkeeper working for Silversea Cruises in Sydney has been accused of stealing A$3.6m (US$2.5m) from the company in an allegedly ‘deliberate and calculated fraud’ over four years.

98 fraud offences

The Sydney Morning Herald reported Tuesday that Mary Ann Abellanoza has been charged with 98 fraud offences, including deliberately obtaining a financial advantage by deception and dealing with the proceeds of crime.

Two separate cases

Details have emerged from two separate legal cases — a criminal case against Abellanoza before the Downing Centre Local Court and a civil case in which Silversea is trying to recover the missing millions from Abellanoza and her husband Perven Abellanoza, in the New South Wales Supreme Court.

In the Supreme Court Justice John Sackar accepted Mr Abellanoza's version of events: that he believed his wife’s newfound wealth was ‘pure luck’ after she developed a seven-days-a-week gambling habit.

Sackar said Silversea could only try to recoup A$1,829 — the money remaining in two bank accounts jointly held by the couple. Silversea is appealing this judgement.

'Unchallenged and credible' evidence

However, the judge found the evidence against Mrs Abellanoza was ‘unchallenged and credible' and that the company could pursue whatever means appropriate to recover the A$3.6m allegedly taken.

The court heard that from 2014, while she was branch accounting supervisor, Abellanoza transferred A$3.6m into seven bank accounts under her control and used a downloadable generator to create fake invoices.

Fake scam claim

Abellanoza fell under suspicion in February 2018 when she told a senior executive she had fallen victim to an online scam and offered to reimburse the company.

VP corporate accounting Jose Santos told the Supreme Court he thought the offer unusual because Abellanoza was not at fault.

Forensic accountant’s findings 

An investigation by a forensic accountant uncovered the alleged discrepancies.

The criminal case will return to Downing Centre Local Court on May 23.

Silversea issued the following statement Tuesday: 'Silversea Cruises takes this matter very seriously and we are taking all reasonable action to protect the business from Mrs Abellanoza’s fraudulent conduct and the conduct of her husband.

'We have fully cooperated and assisted the police with their investigations. Customers can be assured that the business will proceed as usual and that our systems are secure.'

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