Windhoek High Court acting Judge Petrus Unengu on Thursday sentenced fraud convict Immanuel David Freitas Dias to a N$200 000 fine or five years imprisonment, plus a further five years, suspended wholly for five years.
This is in addition to the 21 months he already spent incarcerated after he was convicted on a charge of theft for removing building materials worth N$239 054 from the Oshikango branch of Pupkewitz, where he was employed as branch manager.
Dias was sentenced to six years imprisonment, of which three years were suspended. The latest sentence came after the Supreme Court set aside an acquittal of Dias on a host of fraud, alternatively theft, charges at the end of a trial which he faced with two others in October 2014. Not satisfied with the acquittal, the office of the Prosecutor General launched an appeal in the Supreme Court, where Judge of Appeal Elton Hoff, in concurrence with Deputy Chief Justice Petrus Damaseb and Judge of Appeal Sylvester Mainga, replaced the not guilty verdict with a guilty verdict, and sent the matter back to the High Court for sentencing. His co-accused Edgar Cardosa Alves had absconded by then. A third accused, Mark Alves, was acquitted on all charges at the close of the State’s case.
Judge Unengu said the crime of fraud Dias committed was no doubt a serious crime, and he was convicted of multiple counts of fraud committed against his employer who placed him a position of trust, namely as branch manager.
“He betrayed that trust”, the judge stated, adding that needless to say, fraud or the so-called white-collar crimes are serious and prevalent. Therefore, stiffer sentences should be imposed on those who commit these crimes to deter them and like-minded people who intend to commit similar crimes.
Unengu said courts in Namibia and South Africa have and still impose heavy sentences on those convicted of fraud. However, he said, it is trite that it is accepted that sometimes a succession of punishments imposed for a particular type of crime provides useful guidelines for a court dealing with such a crime.
The judge said evidence was presented that Dias underwent a course while in jail, and changed his ways. The instant matter, and according to the risk assessment placed before court unopposed, attest to the fact that Dias does not seem to pose any risk of re-offending, and that he has already started contributing positively towards society after his release by employing other people to work for him in his company. It appears from the report, the judge said, that the sentence of imprisonment imposed on him previously has rehabilitated him, and deterred him from re-offending. Therefore, the judge said, it will serve no purpose to send him back to jail to repeat the same risk assessment programme he successfully completed.
“It is further my view that sending him to jail in spite of evidence not to do so will do harm instead of good to him”. In the end the judge said, he is satisfied that a sentence with an option of a fine will suit the offender, the crime and the interest of society.