Finance official to pay fine for ‘fraud’

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WINDHOEK – Convicted fraudster Brian Stoffberg was ordered to pay the fine of N$8 000 which was wholly suspended by a magistrate’s court.

This was ordered by two judges of the High Court after another High Court judge ordered that the State may appeal against the sentence.

Judge Harald Geier found in the application for appeal judgment that while the trial court realised that the offence is a serious one and on the increase and that there was a need to impose deterrent sentences, as corruption undermines government, and that the court would therefore be duty bound to protect the interests of society in this regard, the learned magistrate, nevertheless, allowed the mitigating and personal circumstances of the respondent to prevail totally.

He therefore found that in his view the sentence was inappropriate and that another court may come to a different conclusion with regard to sentencing.

Judges of Appeal Nate Ndauendapo and Christi Liebenberg agreed with Judge Geier and on Monday substituted Stoffberg’s wholly suspended fine and ordered that he must pay the fine by 30 November or face one year imprisonment. Stoffberg pleaded guilty on a charge that he corruptly used his office for gratification for submitting two claims of overtime in the amount of N$6 630.90 when he first appeared in the magistrate’s court and was sentenced to a fine of N$8 000 or one year imprisonment, suspended in whole for a period of five years on condition that he is not convicted of the same offence again.

After the sentence, the State instituted appeal proceedings as it found the sentence imposed on the first-time offender to induce a sense of shock, in that certain aggravating factors such as the prevalence of the offence, the high degree of moral blameworthiness due to the respondent’s senior position in the finance ministry were not adequately taken into account. The State further argued that the personal and mitigating factors submitted during the trial were overemphasised by the court and that the deterrent aspect of sentencing was not accorded sufficient weight.

Stoffberg in opposing the application argued that the stressful effect the ordeal had on him and his family should be seen as a deterrent factor in itself. He further stressed to the court that he has suffered public humiliation and that he feels the burden of the punishment imposed on him. Stoffberg also argued that his misdeed was not done out of greed, but rather out of need, that the misappropriated money was replaced almost immediately with the result that he had no benefit of the crime he was convicted of.

Judges Ndauendapo and Liebenberg did not agree with this sentiment and found that the trial court misdirected itself when it imposed a wholly suspended sentence as this could send out a wrong signal to society.