Former Bank Clerk Jailed Over Fraud

MORE than 200 crimes of dishonesty that a former bank clerk committed while employed with Nedbank Namibia left her with a three-year prison sentence on Friday.

Fraud committed against an employer is a breach of trust and is a serious and ugly offence, Magistrate Sarel Jacobs commented when he sentenced Caroline van der Westhuizen (55) in the Windhoek Regional Court.

In cases involving fraud committed against an accused person’s employer, it is a near inevitability that the person, if convicted, would receive a term of direct imprisonment, the magistrate indicated.

Van der Westhuizen pleaded guilty to 224 counts of fraud, involving a total amount of N$375 894,45, on 3 March. She admitted that during the period from 16 April 2004 to 9 February 2007, while she was employed at Nedbank Namibia, she defrauded the bank on 224 occasions.

The fraud was committed when Van der Westhuizen pretended to other employees of the bank that she was authorised to receive money to be used to pay for the postage of bank statements that had to be mailed to Nedbank Namibia clients.

After creating that false impression, Van der Westhuizen was given the money she claimed to need to pay for the postage. Instead of using the money for that purpose, though, she pocketed the cash.

Van der Westhuizen said in a plea explanation four weeks ago that she was in a financial predicament when she committed the crimes. She said she had four minor children at school and her husband had been diagnosed with a heart ailment while he was not a member of a medical aid fund. She committed the fraud to raise money to pay for her husband’s medication, Van der Westhuizen claimed.

She added that she was both shocked and relieved when she was eventually caught out, because she did not feel good about the crimes she was committing.

Van der Westhuizen occupied a position of trust at the bank, Magistrate Jacobs said. She abused that position to enrich herself, he said.

Her conduct – by committing fraud on 224 occasions over a period of nearly three years – hardly showed remorse on her side, but rather showed that greed had taken over after she had started to commit the fraud, the magistrate said.

It would be an invitation to lawlessness if each situation of financial crisis or poverty was used as an excuse to commit fraud or theft, he said.

The court was told that the full amount lost by the bank was paid back to it after the fraud had been discovered. Van der Westhuizen’s pension was also used to refund the bank.

Magistrate Jacobs sentenced her to seven years’ imprisonment, of which four years were suspended for a period of four years on condition that she is not convicted of fraud or theft committed during the period of suspension.

Source : The Namibian