Kohler sorry for N$5.8 million fraud

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WINDHOEK, 20 February 2017- South African national Piet Kohler, on trial on charges of fraud involving N.dollars 5.8 million, admitted guilt on Monday.(Photo by: Simon Endjala) NAMPA

Maria Amakali

Windhoek-South African national Peter Tyran Kohler, 45, who stands accused of embezzling company funds to the tune of N$5.8 million, has voluntarily admitted guilt to all charges and vouched to hand over all his assets to cover the company’s losses due to his criminal actions.

So far some of Kohler’s household goods and immovable assets to the value of N$369 590 were seized and sold on auction to recover a portion of the money that he embezzled over a five-year period.

Kohler embezzled funds from Pennypinchers Timbercity for personal use and or to pay some of his creditors. Kohler stated that his pension fund from Old Mutual is worth N$444 000 and his assets have been forfeited to recover some of the losses.

“I take into account my actions – for that I am really sorry and I am prepared to pay for it,” said the anguished Kohler who held back tears. Kohler promised the court that with the assistance of his family he was going to pay back the money within a 5-year period.

As an accountant fully entrusted by the owners of Pennypinchers Timbercity, Kohler manipulated the accounts since October 2009 in order to create a false impression the payments were made to creditors of Pennypinchers Timbercity, when in actual fact he was the end beneficiary of the money.

In total N$4. 7 million of the embezzled money was paid into a Namibian bank account, while the rest went into a South African bank account.

During his testimony Gunnar Jensen, one of the owners of Pennypinchers Timbercity, said he was very disappointed by the actions of Kohler as he had trusted him fully with all the company’s finances.

Further, Jensen said he helped Kohler settle down in Namibia and when the discrepancies were discovered, he offered him a chance to make amends without knowing the amount in question.

“He flew in from the north and I sat down with him, asking him to rectify the transactions or provide reasons why such irregular transactions were there and that it was not a good idea that they were detected by someone from outside,” explained a disheartened Jensen.

Kohler instead appeared to ignore the request from his employer even though the latter was the only person in his corner willing to save him.

The discrepancies that amounted to the subnational amount in question were discovered by the new accountant hired by the company in the early months of 2015, who was asked to put in order the company books, particularly one account which was very hard to reconcile.

Due to the movement of hundreds of transactions, flowing in and out, Kohler took advantage of that loophole with hopes that his deeds would never be noticed.

Jensen stated to the court there should have been no financial constraints on the part of the accused as he earned N$44 000 a month.

Kohler, who was led in his evidence by state advocate Ingrid Husselmann, was employed as the store accountant at the Windhoek branch and later moved to Ongwediva branch as manager. Kohler has been held in custody since his arrest in September 2015 on four counts of fraud.

Judge Christi Liebenberg postponed the matter for sentencing to March 7 in the High Court.

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