Secretary stole from law firm, court told

2011-10-07 00:00

PIETERMARITZBURG attorneys and conveyancers firm Stowell & Co Incorporated is seeking to provisionally sequestrate the estate of a former senior conveyancing secretary who is under investigation in connection with the alleged theft of R1 268 997,33.

The matter was adjourned indefinitely by consent in the high court in Pietermaritzburg yesterday by Judge Yvonne Mbatha.

Stowell’s claims in court papers that Candida du Plessis, who resigned in July after allegedly being confronted over the allegation of theft, is indebted to them in that amount and has said she cannot repay the money.

The firm maintains it would be in the interests of all creditors if a trustee is appointed. A trustee could investigate, among other things, what had happened to the misappropriated money, whether Du Plessis’s spouse (who is also an attorney) benefited from her actions, and help Stowell & Co to recover the stolen funds.

Du Plessis is opposing the application and said in a replying affidavit she has been advised it would not be prudent for her to comment on the allegations against her in light of a criminal investigation by the police.

Du Plessis accused Stowell’s of using the high court proceedings to gain information about her personal circumstances in order to pass this on to the police.

She contended that her actions could not amount to an act of insolvency under the Insolvency Act and said tht while Stowell’s had detailed some of her assets, it had failed to set out any of her liabilities indicating she was insolvent.

A director of Stowell’s, Neil Painter, said in an affidavit the alleged theft, which took place between July 2008 and July 2011, was uncovered when Du Plessis went away on leave.

He said Du Plessis was confronted about the matter on July 28 and resigned the same day. She said she was unable to repay any of her indebtedness to the firm and stated that “she squandered the monies she stole and was not able to repay any”, he said.

Responding to Du Plessis’s submission in an affidavit that she had been advised that it was not prudent for her to reply to the allegations in the proceedings, Painter maintained that in the absence of an answer from her either admitting or denying the claims, the firm’s version should be accepted.

He said that if the sum of R1 268 997 was included in her “liabilities” Du Plessis was clearly “hopelessly insolvent”.

• ingrido@witness.co.za

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