Court cancels arsonist’s bail

Home Crime and Courts Court cancels arsonist’s bail

WINDHOEK – The bail of self-confessed arsonist and thief, Dawid Koen, was cancelled in the High Court on Friday by Judge Alfred Siboleka.

Judge Siboleka had showed some compassion to Koen upon his conviction by extending his bail of N$50 000 to enable him to support his estranged wife who is receiving treatment for cancer.

However, Judge Siboleka said on Friday the court rules dictate that a person convicted of serious offences must remain behind bars pending his sentence.

Koen pleaded guilty to 60  counts of theft totalling N$1.1 million out of a total of 112 counts.

He also pleaded guilty to a count of arson and obstructing the course of justice. Judge Siboleka convicted him accordingly after prosecutor Ed Marondedze accepted the plea.

During his plea explanation Koen told the court he fell behind with his financial obligations because of his heavy drinking habits. He said that he started to steal from the Outjo Municipality – his employer at the time – at first with the intention to pay back the money, but it soon spiralled out of control and he could not keep up.

Upon hearing of a pending forensic audit by the auditor general’s office, he decided in a drunken stupor to get rid of the evidence by setting fire to the municipal building, the court was told.

While his legal representative, Jan Wessels, implored the court to find that Koen was remorseful for his actions, even to the extent of reimbursing the municipality for some of its losses, Marondedze said Koen showed no remorse.

He said the municipality had to endure more financial losses by instituting civil action against Koen to withhold his pension money. He said that Koen went to the extent of defending the action before “conceding at a later stage”.

According to Marondedze, Koen’s claims that he was willing to pay back the municipality N$300 000 that will come from “friends and family” was not a genuine gesture of remorse as it will not come from his own pocket.

“My Lord,” he asked, “the money the accused cost the complainant is far in excess of N$4 million, how will he be able to reimburse the municipality? Even if he pays back an amount of N$1 000 or N$2 000 per month, he won’t be able to repay the full amount owed.”

Marondedze further argued the accused did everything in his power to frustrate the municipality in recovering its losses. He said Koen had disposed of his assets leaving the municipality with an “empty judgment”. There was nothing left of Koen’s property that the municipality could attach, he said.

“The house of the accused and his wife is heavily mortgaged and would not yield sufficient value if sold and the pension money confiscated by the Outjo Municipality is not even a drop in the ocean.”

According to Marondedze this conduct of Koen was very aggravating and he labelled it “mischievous demeanour”.

He said that Koen’s financial troubles were self-created and if he got away with a relatively light sentence it would send a wrong message to the public.

 Marondedze said if there were prospects that Koen would be able to repay the municipality – “which could be compared to manna falling from the heaven” – it could be combined with a suspended sentence on condition that he repayed the municipality. He thus asked the court to impose a direct term of imprisonment of 10 years on the arson charge, two years on the obstruction of justice charge and proposed that the two sentences run concurrently as the crimes were committed together.

He further asked the court to impose a direct jail term of 15 years on the conviction for theft, of which part may be suspended on condition that Koen reimburses the municipality.

Koen was the treasurer of the Outjo Municipality from 2000 until his resignation shortly after he was arrested in 2009.

He will now have to wait behind bars to hear his sentence on June 23.

By Roland Routh