Esmerelda Majiedt, the woman convicted of 404 counts of fraud by her own admission, yesterday asked forgiveness from the company she defrauded, AfriSam Namibia, and her children.
“My Lord, I wish to tell my children that I am sorry for this thing I brought over them,” a tearful Majiedt told Judge Christi Liebenberg during her testimony in mitigation of sentence.
She apologised to AfriSam for the losses she caused them and said if she could she would turn back the clock to undo her fraudulent acts.
Speaking in a quivering voice and continuously wiping tears from her eyes, Majiedt repeatedly apologised for her crimes.
According to her, the whole saga started when an old school friend asked her if there was a way she could get him a special discount, as he was experiencing cash-flow problems.
“Since I knew of breakages and other damage control issues, I told this friend that I can get him a discount if he paid in cash. This was when I realised that I could make extra money by selling to other customers for cash in exchange for discount,” she explained.
According to her she then approached Rundu businessman Daniel Batista de Jesus and the Bezuidenhoudt brothers, Calvin and Gerald, with offers that she can get them special discounts if they paid in cash.
In her plea explanation – handed in when she pleaded guilty – she exonerated De Jesus and the Bezuidenhoudt brothers, saying they had no knowledge of the fraud and were under the impression the transactions were legitimate.
Majiedt said she tried to stop at first, but then it became a habit as she was raking in between N$200 000 and N$300 000 per month. She admitted defrauding the cement company of N$56.5 million over a five-year period, starting in 2007.
She told the court that because of a skin condition that turned her skin white, she suffered from insecurities and used the money stolen from AfriSam to buy the affection of people.
“I used to buy people nice things for their homes and even paid schoolfees for so-called friends,” she said, adding that none of those “friends” are in sight these days. “They did not even visit me in jail and have rejected me.”
According to her the fraudulent activities were a combination of “need and greed”, as she needed the money to uphold a certain lifestyle to overcome her insecurities.
Majiedt asked the court to be lenient on her and give her a chance to become a useful member of society.
“My Lord, I am 50 years of age and I humbly apologise for my actions, but I believe I can still be a productive and useful member of society if given a chance,” she said and asked the court to give her a suspended sentence.
She also informed the court that she has four sons, one of whom is a minor, and three grandchildren. “My children are my everything,” she said.
“They did not abandon me during this time and I ask the court to give me a chance to be a mother to them and a grandmother to my grandchildren,” a teary-eyed Majiedt pleaded with Judge Liebenberg.
Majiedt was arrested in April 2011 and held in custody for a year-and-a-half before she was granted bail in the amount of N$250 000. After her guilty plea, her bail was withdrawn and she remains in custody.