Esmerelda Majiedt, the woman convicted on 404 counts of fraud committed at a local cement manufacturing company, was sentenced to 25 years in prison yesterday.
It was however ordered that eight years are suspended for a period of five years on condition that Majiedt is not convicted of fraud during the stated period.
Majiedt, who was dressed in a black two-piece suit and a black and white blouse, burst out in tears after Judge Christi Liebenberg finished the judgement in which he labelled the offence as one of greed instead of need.
According to Liebenberg, he needed to impose a sentence that was not only a deterrent but fair to society and the accused as well.
In this instance, he said, the personal circumstances of the accused were far outweighed by the aggravating circumstances.
“The most aggravating feature is that, whilst employed in a position of trust, she incessantly defrauded her employer for purely selfish reasons and used the proceeds of her fraudulent scheme to finance a luxurious standard of living, all of which having been enjoyed at the expense of her employer,” the judge stated.
“The accused’s stealing went beyond her needs and it is inconceivable how she could have spent approximately N$300 000 every month over a period of five years; yet she has nothing to show for it and today is penniless.”
Majiedt admitted to having received up to N$300 000 in cash through the fraudulent sale of cement.
According to the judge, the unavoidable conclusion reached is that imprisonment is the only suitable punishment to impose on Majiedt.
He said the moral blameworthiness of the accused is such an important factor in determining the punishment to be meted out that it must be accorded sufficient weight.
Liebenberg said that although personal circumstances, such as her skin condition, had an effect on her state of mind during the commission of the offences and were important factors, they were overstated and taken out of context.
“Her personality tests showed otherwise. Neither is there the slightest indication that it [skin condition] adversely affected her in her work – the converse is rather true,” the judge remarked.
He said those who make themselves guilty of so-called white-collar crime to the extent encountered in this case must expect the full rigour of a severe sentence imposed both as punishment and to deter others.
A lenient sentence would not have the desired effect, the judge said, as it would be inadequate to reflect the seriousness of the crimes committed by the accused and equally fall short of providing the necessary deterrence to others tempted to indulge in the commission of “white-collar crimes”.
“In these circumstances an exemplary sentence of direct imprisonment is justified,” he said, adding that Majiedt’s genuine remorse – amplified by her guilty plea – should lead to a significant reduction in sentence.
The only way to achieve this, without derogating from the seriousness of the crimes committed, is to suspend a portion of the sentence.
He said since the offences were committed in a similar manner although over a period of time, it was advisable to take them together as the cumulative effect of sentencing on each count would not do justice to the accused.