Windhoek-Peter Tyran Kohler, a 45-year-old accountant who last month confessed to committing fraud involving N$5.8 million that he stole from his former employer over a period of five years has been sent to jail for an effective 10 years.
The South African national committed the offence when he was employed as an accountant at the Windhoek branch of Pennypinchers Timbercity, and later as store manager at the company’s Ongwediva branch during the period March 2009 to September 2015.
Kohler was on February 21 convicted of 218 fraud charges and these were on Tuesday put together for the purposes of sentencing when High Court Judge Christie Liebenberg sentenced Kohler to 15 years in prison.
Five years were then suspended for a period of five years on condition he is not convicted of the same offence of fraud during the period of his suspended sentence.
“The convicted person passionately testified that he is a reformed person and I have no doubt that during the time of incarceration he has made good strides on the road to rehabilitation. In sentencing the convict, the court must decide what is to be achieved with the punishment imposed.
“One of the objectives for consideration is reformation, especially where the convict already on his own volition embarked upon the road to recovery,” Judge Liebenberg noted before imposing sentence.
According to the judge, the court took due consideration of all mitigating factors before it, noting that Kohler is a first-time offender who has shown genuine remorse for the wrong he has done by pleading guilty to the charges against him.
It was also established during the trial that Kohler had surrendered all his personal assets to help minimise the loss to his former employers and that his crimes were not committed on the spur of the moment, but over a period of five years, during which he abused the position of trust and confidence his employer had placed in him.
“The loss suffered by the companies is substantial and lastly the convict personally gained from the proceeds of these crimes.
“For the aforesaid reasons, the inescapable conclusion reached by this court is that the interests of justice outweigh the personal interests of the convict and that the circumstances of the case dictate the imposition of a lengthy custodial sentence, ‘’ Liebenberg concluded.
Kohler has been in police custody at the Windhoek Central Correctional Facility awaiting the finalisation of the trial for the past 18 months. When he testified in mitigation of his sentence, Kohler said he was “really sorry” and regretted stealing the money from his employers.
“The commission of this offence is killing me slowly from inside. I had dreams and I needed the money to accomplish my dreams,” he said while shedding tears.
The convicted Kohler told the court he was unable to stop taking money and that the “desire for more necessities and money” forced him to do what he did.
He admitted his mistakes and pleaded with his employers, family and the nation at large for forgiveness. Kohler said he knew that what he was doing was wrong and unacceptable.
“I understand the financial loss to my employers is huge,” he said and vowed that he would never commit the same offence again.
Kohler said he had invested most of the stolen money in his residence in Olympia suburb in Windhoek and in the welfare and medical expenses of members of his family.
He also reiterated that he has no previous convictions.
Kohler is married with three children, who live with their respective mothers in Cape Town, South Africa.
He will serve his sentence at Windhoek Central Correctional Facility.
State Advocate Ingrid Husselmann appeared for the prosecution, while Mese Tjituri defended Kohler.