Estate agent out of funds in criminal trial over DRC general’s money

Windhoek-Coastal estate agent Erwin Sprangers, who has been embroiled in a criminal trial involving the alleged theft of N$7 million that belongs to Democratic Republic of Congo army general Francois Olenga, has run out of funds to pay for his legal representation.

Spranger, 58, and wife Lorinda, are facing charges of fraud and theft by false pretence.

The Sprangers have been embroiled in a civil case with Olenga since 2014, with Olenga trying to get back US$900,000 that he had deposited with the couple's real estate agents.

Late last year, Prosecutor General Martha Imalwa decided to charge the Sprangers couple with criminal charges in the High Court over the disappearance of the money. The trial was supposed to start yesterday and run until October 27.

But yesterday, Advocate Louis Botes who was representing the Sprangers couple informed Judge Naomi Shivute, who was allocated the trial by Judge Christi Liebenberg, as he is due to go on long leave, that he has no funds for the trial.

Botes appeared amicus curiae (as a friend of the court) on behalf of Sprangers and his wife and indicated to the court that he will continue to act amicus curiae for them in the foreseeable future, but cannot do so for the trial.

Judge Shivute advised Sprangers to apply for legal aid, who said in response that he was told he did not qualify. The judge, however, insisted that Sprangers apply and Botes undertook to help both Sprangers apply for legal aid.

According to Sprangers, he was in the process of selling his house and should he manage to do so he would be in a position to pay his legal fees.

Botes also took a swipe at the prosecutor, saying Sprangers' bail money was in the region of N$200,000 and should the State see its way to freeing up just part of it, that would go a long way in relieving the Sprangers' financial difficulty.

Judge Shivute postponed the matter to February 2 next year for the Sprangers to either sort out their legal representation issues or to have secured enough funds to pay his lawyers.

Sprangers alone faces a charge of fraud. Together with his wife, he faces five charges of theft by conversion alternatively theft.

The matter arises from a business transaction between Sprangers and Olenga during January 2010, when it was allegedly agreed that Olenga would deposit US$900,000 into the trust banking account of Sprangers' estate agency, Kintcher Estates, as trust money for the development of two properties the general owned at the coast, or for the acquisition of further properties for Olenga.

According to the charge sheet, the money was to be held in trust for Olenga and could only be used for purposes approved by Olenga and would immediately be paid back to Olenga on request.

The summary of substantial facts in the indictment indicates that Sprangers agreed that Olenga would pay funds into his bank account for the purpose of developing Olenga's properties in Namibia. He then apparently misrepresented to Olenga that should Olenga avail the said funds, he (Sprangers) would hold and keep in trust such funds on Olenga's behalf.

The State further alleges that Sprangers misrepresented to Olenga that he would only spend the funds on expenditure expressly approved prior to spending by Olenga, and would upon demand pay back the funds to Olenga.

During the period between February 10, 2010 to July 6, 2010, the complainant's funds � totalling N$6,785,318.76 � were transferred by Breadfield Trade LTD on the instructions of Olenga in five tranches into the Kintscher Estate Agents and Auctioneers' First National Bank account, instead of their trust account.

It further said that either one of the Sprangers couple had signing rights on the account. According to the State, once the money was in their said bank account, the Sprangers couple, between February 1, 2010 and December 31, 2010 stole or misappropriated all the general's money for own use.

The State is represented by Advocate Erich Moyo.

Source: New Era Newspaper Namibia