Western Cape embezzler jailed

2013-05-29 21:59

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Cape Town - A Western Cape woman was jailed for in effect eight years on Wednesday for embezzling R3.8m.

Celeste Gayle Harker, 45, an accounts administrator employed by Italian businessman Andrea Assirelli, was sentenced by the Bellville Specialised Commercial Crime Court on 404 counts of fraud, and one of money-laundering.

Although she faced the minimum 15-year jail sentence prescribed for a first-time offender found guilty of fraud involving R500 000 or more, the court found compelling circumstances for a lesser sentence.

Magistrate Sabrina Sonnenberg found Harker had a severe addiction to gambling, was a primary care-giver to her children, had pleaded guilty and was a first-time offender.

According to the charge sheet, Assirelli owned five close corporations and one company.

Harker’s duty for the six concerns involved the payment of creditors.

Prosecutor Juan Agulhas told the court Harker manipulated an electronic system to create fictitious service-providers for nearly three years, until being caught last February.

Bank staff had provided her with electronic passwords giving her access to the bank accounts of company creditors.

This enabled her to channel payments intended for creditors into her own account, and into the accounts of two friends.

Agulhas said the embezzlement had forced Assirelli to sell his luxury home and cars, and to close down one of his six business concerns.

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