Arsonist Town Treasurer Jailed for 12 Years

THE crimes that former Outjo town treasurer Dawid Koen committed when he stole close to N$1,2 million from the Outjo municipality and then tried to destroy evidence of the theft by setting fire to a municipal building have left him with a 12-year prison term that could increase to 18 years if he fails to also pay a fine of N$350 000.

Koen’s crimes, and in particular the arson, were some of the worst offences by a high-ranking local authority official the High Court has dealt with to date, Judge Alfred Siboleka commented during Koen’s sentencing in the Windhoek High Court yesterday.

As the person who was in charge of the Outjo Municipality’s finances and who had to jealously guard the local authority’s funds, Koen dismally failed both his employer and the town’s residents by stealing money that residents were paying to the municipality for services delivered to them, Judge Siboleka said.

The aggravating factors in Koen’s case outweigh his personal circumstances and mitigating factors by far, the judge said. The fact that he stole money from the municipality over a period of about two and a half years and that irreplaceable records were destroyed in the fire that Koen started when he set an office building of the municipality ablaze is part of those aggravating factors, Judge Siboleka also indicated.

He sentenced Koen (54) to 12 years’ imprisonment on charges of arson and defeating or obstructing the course of justice. On the 60 counts of theft to which Koen also pleaded guilty two months ago, he was sentenced to pay a fine of N$350 000, or serve a further six-year prison term if the fine is not paid.

Koen admitted at the start of his trial that during the time he was employed as strategic executive officer or town treasurer at the Outjo Municipality he had stolen a total of N$1,19 million from the municipality.

His explanation for the theft was that he was experiencing financial difficulties at the time and thought that at the end of each month he would be able to replace the money he had taken out of the municipality’s coffers.

He managed to replace the money for two or three months, but then started to lose control of the situation, he told the court. With the theft continuing from March 2007 until August 2009, the total amount that Koen stole from his employer grew to N$1,19 million before he tried to cover his tracks by destroying the financial records that could have served as evidence of the theft he had been committing.

Koen told the court he was in a depressed and confused state when he decided on 17 August 2009 to set fire to offices of the Outjo Municipality. After starting the fire that was to destroy the offices, he drove out of Outjo, planning to take his own life, he told the judge. He could not muster the courage to go through with his plan, though, and handed himself over to the police later that day.

Koen had been employed with the Outjo Municipality since 2000.

The court was informed that it cost the municipality more than N$2,2 million to repair the burnt building. Some of the damage resulting from the arson was irreversible, though, with irreplaceable historical records dating as far back as 1944 and including graveyard registers and financial records destroyed in the fire.

The municipality recovered some of the money stolen from it by laying claim to about N$386 000 in Koen’s pension fund. Koen also made an offer to the court that he could raise money from relatives and would then be able to pay a further N$350 000 to the municipality.

Koen was represented by defence lawyer Jan Wessels. State aocate Ed Marondedze represented the prosecution.

Source : The Namibian