Cape Town – Almost 10 cases involving women in prominent positions such as lawyers, real estate agents and accountants were heard by commercial crime courts in the Western Cape and Eastern Cape between July and September.
The charges range from murder, fraud, theft and money laundering.
Last week, the Hawks won their biggest prize when Estelle Shereldine Burgess, 63, who worked as a creditors’ clerk, was sentenced to 15 years in prison on 972 counts of fraud in the amount of 13, 4 million rand.
Hawks captain Yolisa Mgolodela said Burgess embezzled funds from the company where she prepared payments to creditors and invoices and transferred them to bank accounts of which she was the beneficiary.
“It is reported that Burgess, in her capacity as Creditors Clerk at Eastern Cape Training Center (ECT), Gqeberha, during the period between 2004 and 2014, embezzled company funds by preparing payments to creditors and, thus submitting these invoices to the financial manager for payment on his Standard Bank system.
“Burgess claimed the bank details were those of the creditors, but the payments were transferred to various bank accounts of which she was the beneficiary for an amount of R13.4 million,” Mgolodela said.
“After discovering discrepancies and declining revenues, ECT filed a complaint with Gqeberha’s Serious Commercial Crime Investigation Team for investigation, which resulted in his arrest on January 29, 2019.”
Louise van der Merwe, of the South African Bank Risk Information Center, said he could not comment on individual cases but could only act as awareness raising, involving money laundering .
“Allowing the proceeds of crime to be laundered through your bank account, knowingly or not, is a criminal offense. Bank customers can be charged and convicted of money laundering and even jail time.
“Criminals approach bank customers asking them to put funds into their accounts and often offer them a reward for using the account.
“An example of the above modus operandi is where the criminal informs the account holder of the sale of a motor vehicle and orders the buyer to pay specifically to an account with a particular bank (the same bank than the one with which the victim is banking) so that the funds can be cleared more quickly.
“Because the ‘seller’ is in urgent need of money, the use of the victim’s account is demanded and the victim is promised a reward for the favor.
“For most people, the explanation given seems logical and the promised reward serves as motivation, making them likely to help, especially if the ‘salesperson’ is known to them.
“Criminals also approach people with valid identity documents and ask them to open accounts so that they can conduct transactions because they do not have the proper documents to qualify for an account.
“Because foreign nationals face such difficulties and people want to be kind to their neighbors, many people have been tricked into opening accounts which are then used by criminals to launder money.”
National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Eric Ntabazalila confirmed that they had achieved huge success in the case of Western Cape lawyer Anita Arendse, who had faced charges of fraud and fraud. theft related to the misappropriation of trust funds by a lawyer.
Arendse allegedly embezzled money that was deposited in her trust account to purchase property from the estate of a deceased person, but she never transferred the property to the buyer nor paid the money in cash involving hundreds of thousands of rand.
“The complainant claimed her losses from the Law Practitioners Loyalty Fund. The case was postponed to September 7 for the outcome of the representations.
“The firm was insured by the fund for any theft or misappropriation of trust funds.
“A claim has been filed against the fund for theft or embezzlement in the amount of R129,000 by Mrs. Abrahams. She purchased a property from the estate of the late GR Sampson for R165,000.
“The firm was commissioned by Mrs. Abrahams to transfer the property to her name on November 1, 2005.
“During 2007, the company wrote to Ms Abrahams that the purchase price of the property had been reduced to R125,000, therefore reimbursed her the sum of R36,000.
“Since the company’s payment of Rand 36,000 to Ms. Abrahams, no transfer of ownership has taken place and Ms. Abrahams has not received the rest of her money. Instead, Ms Abrahams received a letter from the firm stating that the accused’s law firm had ceased operations. This prompted Ms. Abrahams to file a claim with the fund, and the fund reimburses her the sum of R129,000 for losses suffered at the hands of the company, ”Ntabazalila said.
Kristina Adler, 46, and Jens Leunberg 44, were sentenced by the Gqeberha Commercial Crime Court on August 13 on charges of murder and fraud.
The state has proven that they have approached a family and are interested in purchasing their farm, Owvanuk and three others, worth over R62 million.
Adler and Leunberg presented false bank statements and the victim was lured to the farm by the couple on August 14, 2009 where he was murdered. They were convicted of two counts of fraud and one of murder. Adler was sentenced to 10 years in prison and Leunberg to 25 years.
Michael Sass, 57, chief financial officer of National Health Laboratories Services and Felicia Sekete, 32, director of Feliham appeared in the Specialized Commercial Crimes sitting in Palm Ridge (Eastern Cape) on August 16.
Sekete and Sass appeared on charges related to tendering millions of personal protective equipment to the National Health Laboratories Services. The couple were arrested on the morning of August 15 by the Hawks. Their case was postponed to October 5 for further investigation after receiving a bond of R20,000 each.
A 49-year-old woman appeared in Mossel Bay Regional Court on August 23 for allegations of theft and money laundering. The state is set to prove that between April 2015 and July 2016, she stole more than Rand 477,430 from Mossel Bay Golf Club, where she worked as an accountant. It is alleged that she took the money from the safe at work and detonated it on slot machines and apparently made a total of 21 deposits to her personal account.
A 39-year-old woman appeared in Bellville Commercial Court on 430 counts of fraud and one of theft and two under the Communications and Electronic Transactions (ECT) Act on August 25. The state alleges the woman defrauded three R1 companies. 9m where she worked as a finance and practice manager and did accounting.