It was like ‘kicking bleeding man’

2012-04-27 00:00

THE theft of R1,2 million from her employer by conveyancing secretary Candida du Plessis (34) was comparable to kicking a bleeding man while he was down and stealing his wallet.

This was said in the regional court yesterday by Jeremy Brink, a director of Shackleton Risk Management, which had insured Stowell & Company from which the money was stolen.

Brink said his company is aware of an “alarming increase” in the theft of money by secretaries of law firms in the Pietermaritzburg area of late and urged regional magistrate Jennifer Anthoo to send a “very clear message that it won’t be tolerated”.

“People like the accused who grossly abuse the trust of their employer should not be heard to say that crime pays,” Brink said.

Brink said on the previous occasion this case was in court he had been aware of four incidents of theft by law firm employees in the city involving some R5 million, and since then a fifth has come to light.

The thefts were potentially ruinous for firms and had a huge impact.

As far as insurers were concerned increases in this type of offence would lead to a rise in premiums.

Also affected are remuneration and bonuses payable to other staffers in the affected firm.

“Shackleton Risk Management has suffered a loss in excess of R2 million as a direct result of criminals like the accused,” he said.

He said his firm paid out R800 000 to Stowell & Company to cover Du Plessis’s theft.

While he agreed with defence advocate Gideon Scheltema SC there were probably loopholes in the system at Stowell & Company that enabled Du Plessis to steal the money over three years, that was no excuse.

In his view “inner vice and dishonesty” were to blame for this type of crime, he said.

He said as a senior and experienced employee, Du Plessis had a duty to her employer to report potential “gaps” in the system, not exploit them. Her conduct was the same as kicking a “bleeding man while he is down and stealing his wallet”.

Brink said he personally had been “flabbergasted” at the lack of remorse shown by Du Plessis for her actions. She had tried to lay the blame on the company, and opposed efforts to recover any of the stolen money, including an application to sequestrate her estate.

Du Plessis is to be sentenced on May 14.

Scheltema urged the court to have regard to the interests of her young child, in light of recent judgments by the Constitional Court and Supreme Court of Appeals, which ruled that children should not be punished for the sins of their parents.

He also submitted that “protected evidence” led in camera by a psychologist on Du Plessis’s behalf paints a “very sad and disturbing picture” of her.

• ingrido@witness.co.za

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