‘Greedy’ cops get 2nd chance

2014-10-21 00:00

THIRTEEN policemen and former policemen convicted of fraud were yesterday given “another chance” by a Pietermaritzburg magistrate.

They were each sentenced to fines, alternatively imprisonment.

The highest fine imposed was R60 000 (or three years’ imprisonment) of which R40 000 (or two years’ imprisonment) was conditionally suspended for five years.

Other sentences imposed ranged from R30 000 (or three years’ imprisonment) half suspended, to R20 000 and R5 000 each with alternative jail terms, parts of which were also suspended conditionally for five years.

Three of the men, Mlungisi Ndlovu, Madoda Ngubane and Donald Sokhela, are currently still employed by the SA Police Service and one of them, Bhekisisa Zondi, still volunteers as a police reservist, their advocate Anesh Sukdeo told the court.

The majority of the rest are currently unemployed.

They were all found guilty of having defrauded the police service of amounts totalling more than R145 000 between 2005 and 2006 by lodging false claims in respect of hospital guard duties they were assigned to perform.

In her judgment yesterday, magistrate Celumusa Zungu said prosecutor Sharleen Haggard correctly referred the court to a number of decided cases where direct imprisonment was imposed on fraudsters.

She said fraud is a very serious offence and is also prevalent. “It is a selfish act when you gain something from prejudicing someone else.”

She said it was aggravating that all the accused were employed when they committed the fraud and became “greedy”.

She said a number of them appeared to have made a “habit” of committing fraud, and did it repeatedly.

“You had the opportunity to reflect on what you were doing,” she added.

Zungu said society looks to the courts to impose appropriate punishment on fraudsters and in light of the prevalence it was not uncommon, even for first offenders, to be sentenced to direct imprisonment.

However, she said the court had to deal with every case on its merits.

In this particular case the majority of accused were first offenders, and the few that had previous convictions were for unrelated offences.

She said the court had to strike a balance between imposing a sentence that was “too harsh” and one that was too lenient.

In favour of the accused she took into account that the fraud stopped in 2006. As there was no evidence to the contrary she accepted they’d had a “change of heart” and stopped committing crime.

She also said the prosecution did not prove they acted “with a common purpose” to commit the fraud.

As a result each had to be sentenced as individuals based on the amounts each had stolen.

“I have decided to give you another chance and fine you, and not impose direct imprisonment on you,” she told the group to their obvious relief.

• ingrido@witness.co.za

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