Ex-Outjo Treasurer Back in Jail Before Sentencing

THE reprieve from jail that former Outjo town treasurer Dawid Koen was granted after being accused of burning down offices of the Outjo Municipality in an attempt to hide the large-scale theft of money from the local authority ended in the Windhoek High Court on Friday.

Koen’s bail was withdrawn and he was placed back in custody after Judge Alfred Siboleka heard final arguments before his sentencing on 60 charges of theft and additional counts of arson and obstructing the course of justice. Having heard the arguments from defence counsel Jan Wessels and State aocate Ed Marondedze, Judge Siboleka postponed Koen’s sentencing to 23 June.

Koen’s bail was extended after he had pleaded guilty to the charges three weeks ago. He had been free on bail since October 2009 – about two months after his arrest in connection with a fire that caused extensive damage to offices of the Outjo municipality on 17 August 2009.

In his plea on 12 May, Koen admitted that he set offices of the municipality on fire in an attempt to destroy evidence that would have implicated him in the theft of about N$1,2 million from the local authority.

He was initially charged with 112 counts of fraud, alternatively theft, involving a total amount of N$1,74 million, and further charges of arson and defeating or obstructing the course of justice. The fraud or theft was alleged to have been committed during the period from March 2007 to August 2009.

Koen (54) was employed as strategic executive officer or town treasurer at the Outjo municipality at the time he stole the money.

Following his plea, Koen told the court that he stole the money from his employer because he was experiencing financial difficulties at the time.

He said that when he first took money from the municipality he thought he would be able to replace it at the end of the month. For the first two or three months he managed to do that, but then he started to lose control of the situation and was not able to replace the money any more.

With the Office of the Auditor General about to carry out an audit at the local authority about two and a half years after the theft began, he tried to destroy evidence of the theft by setting the municipal offices on fire, Koen admitted.

He added that he was in a deep state of depression and confusion and was planning to commit suicide after setting the building on fire, but he could not muster the courage to go through with that plan.

Wessels told the court on Friday that Koen could raise about N$300 000 with the help of friends and relatives to compensate the municipality for at least part of its losses. The municipality has already retained about N$386 000 from Koen’s pension benefits to cover some of the losses it suffered as a result of the theft and arson, the court was told.

Wessels acknowledged that it was inevitable that Koen would be sentenced to a period of imprisonment. He asked the judge to still treat Koen with a measure of mercy, though.

Marondedze argued that Koen was well paid, receiving a gross monthly salary of about N$31 000, at the time he committed the theft. “The man really did not steal out of need, but out of greed. That’s really aggravating,” he said.

He suggested that Koen should be sentenced to 10 years in prison on the arson charge, 15 years’ imprisonment on the theft charges, and two years in prison for obstructing the course of justice. Part of the sentence on the theft charges can be suspended, while part of the sentence for obstruction of justice can be ordered to be served concurrently with the sentence for arson, Marondedze said.

Source : The Namibian