Windhoek High Court Judge Eileen Rakow last week sentenced former coastal estate agent Erwin Sprangers (62) to an effective prison term of eight years.
She convicted Sprangers on five counts of theft by conversion and one count of money laundering but acquitted him on a count of fraud over N$6.7 million he stole from Democratic Republic of Congo Army General Francois Olenga.
The judge sentenced Sprangers to 14 years on the theft counts – taken together as one for the sentencing purpose – and six years on the money laundering count. She however suspended six years of the sentence of the theft counts on condition that Sprangers is not convicted of a crime of theft during the period of suspension. She also directed that the sentences run concurrently leaving him with eight years.
According to Rakow, when determining whether a sentence of direct imprisonment is appropriate for crimes like the ones Sprangers was convicted of, it is important to note that so-called white-collar crimes are on the rise.
She quoted Judge Christie Liebenberg when he said “though the accused have not resorted to crimes involving violence, the corrosive impact of crimes of this nature on society cannot be underestimated. It would therefore be wrong to content that crimes of fraud are less serious.”
She went on to say that although Sprangers has placed various factors before the court, including serious health issues, this does not merit the court to divert from a custodial sentence.
She further said that the accused showed no remorse throughout his trial and persisted with his claims of innocence.
She further said that she took into account that Sprangers paid back an amount of money, but that he was trusted by the complainant and seen as a friend.
“The money was paid over by the complainant to the accused as part of a business agreement they had for the development of property which would have been to the benefit of the development of Namibia,” the judge said.
She went on to say that the increase in white-collar crimes is also noted and taken into account.
According to Rakow, Sprangers is not in a position to compensate Olenga for the remainder of the missing money.
“The interest of society is best served when perpetrators are punished appropriately,” she said. “It is expected that persons guilty of serious offences to be severely punished, but also in such a manner that they are deterred from committing such offences again, and that they are given the opportunity to rehabilitate, and upon their release, be productive and effective members of society again.” -email@example.com