Silversea Cruises employee charged with stealing $3.5 million

Kowloon, Hong Kong - November 2, 2017: A cruise ship is moored at the Ocean Terminal Deck in Hong Kong, in the background one can observe the Sky100 tower.

A bookkeeper working for Silversea Cruises has reportedly been accused of  “deliberate and calculated fraud” over four years to the tune of $3.5 million.

In a report by The Sydney Morning Herald yesterday, Mary Ann Abellanoza, who worked at Silversea’s Sydney office, has been charged with 98 counts of fraud, including “deliberately obtaining a financial advantage by deception and dealing with the proceeds of crime.”

Abellanoza reportedly received a salary package of nearly $90,000 while working at Silversea Cruises, which included a free voyage each year on one of the company’s vessels.

In a Supreme Court hearing, the court heard that from 2014, while she was branch accounting supervisor, Abellanoza transferred $3.56 million into seven bank accounts under her control and used a downloadable generator to create fake invoices.

SMH reported that a forensic accountant uncovered the alleged discrepancies, and told the court that the size and frequency of the transactions indicated “a deliberate and calculated fraud”.

Abellanoza did not file a defence, while Justice Sackar found the evidence against her was “unchallenged and credible”. Silversea Cruises can reportedly recover the $3.5 million allegedly taken by Abellanoza by “whatever means appropriate”.

It was also reported that Abellanoza’s husband, Perven Abellanoza, was able to convince a judge that he was unaware of his wife’s fraudulence, despite reportedly.

Silversea Cruises was able to recover just under $2000 from him. Mr Abellanoza allegedly received more than $800,000 of misappropriated funds.

The details reportedly emerged from two separate legal cases – a criminal case against Ms Abellanoza before the Downing Centre Local Court, and a civil case where cruise company tried to recover the missing millions from the couple in the NSW Supreme Court.

In the Supreme Court, Justice John Sackar ruled it could not pursue Perven Abellanoza for the $811,565 he allegedly received because the accused was unaware the money had been misappropriated.

Justice Sackar accepted that Mr Abellanoza believed his wife’s newfound wealth was “pure luck” after she developed a “seven-days-a-week gambling habit”.

Mr Abellanoza said that had he discovered the genesis of the misappropriated money, he would have put a stop to it or divorced his wife. Justice Sackar had “serious misgivings” about Mr Abellanoza’s evidence.

“He tried far too hard to project the image of a hapless male,” Justice Sackar told SMH, but found “he could also have been upset, nervous and ashamed of what had occurred before he discovered it”.

Silversea Cruises said it is taking all reasonable action “to protect the business from Ms Abellanoza’s fraudulent conduct and the conduct of her husband”.

“We have fully co-operated and assisted the Police with their investigations,” a spokesperson from Silverseas Cruises said. “Customers can be assured that the business will proceed as usual and that our systems are secure.

“Given that both civil and criminal proceedings are ongoing, we are unable to comment further at this time.”

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

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