WINDHOEK - A former property mogul from Swakopmund was on Wednesday fined to pay a fine of N$100 000 or spend the next 10 and a half years behind bars at the conclusion of his fraud trial in the Windhoek High Court.
Judge Naomi Shivute said that given the age and ill-health of 73-year-old Hans Peter Rothen and the circumstances of his case generally, a custodial sentence will be inappropriate.
Rothen was convicted by Judge Shivute on eight counts of fraud of N$1.1 million for which he was sentenced to pay N$40 000 or spend four years imprisonment.
He was also convicted on one count of theft of N$150 000 for which he was sentenced to a fine of N$15 000 or 18 months’ imprisonment; one count of fraud for falsely obtaining a 50 percent membership in a CC for which he was sentenced to a fine of N$5 000 or one year imprisonment and another count of fraud for transferring a little over N$1.1 million into his own account for which he was sentenced to a fine of N$40 000 or four years’ imprisonment.
He was acquitted on a charge of conducting business recklessly
The case stems from a business relationship between Rothen and his 50 percent partner, Bernd Muller, in a property development company, Seaside Properties Investment CC at Swakopmund which turned sour. Rothen, between January 2003 and March 2004, paid cheques valued at N$1.093 million that belonged to the CC into his company, Seaside Properties.
Muller has since also instigated civil claims against Rothen that is still ongoing in the High Court. Rothen testified in mitigation that he is financially ruined by the criminal and civil cases as he had to fork out more than N$5 million in legal fees.
He further claimed that the cases have caused him stress to the stage that it affected his health and personal relationships. He said he suffers from acute diabetes which requires him to inject himself five times a day and monitors his blood levels regularly.
He also suffers from ulcers which caused him severe blood loss which required a blood transfusion. He told the judge in mitigation that he is a in a position to pay a fine of at least N$100 000. Rothen said that he is on bail of N$75 000 and he would be able to add another N$25 000. He also said he is sorry for what he has done, although he does not know what it is that he has done wrong.
Judge Shivute further said that although Rothen did not show any remorse as he maintains that he did nothing wrong, he is a first offender at an advanced age who committed a ‘white collar crime’.
However, she said, it cannot be ignored that Rothen was convicted of a crime that involves dishonesty and that courts generally view such crimes in a serious light. “The offence of fraud is very serious,” the judge said and continued: “It is also rampant in Namibia. The accused caused actual and potential prejudice to the close corporation (the CC) as well as to the other member of the CC. The accused also committed the offence of theft of credit. Theft of credit is not a lesser offence as opposed to theft of actual cash.”
Furthermore, the judge said, the offences were premeditated. She went on to say that the expectation of society is that people who commit crimes should be dealt with accordingly and that sentences that fit the crime should be meted out.