Eight years ‘too lenient’

2013-08-20 00:00

A FORMER senior bookkeeper, Esme Klynsmith (46), who admitted defrauding her employer, McBeans, of R963 877,78 yesterday waved briefly to a small family group in the regional court as she was led away to start serving an effective eight-year jail sentence for her crimes.

Regional magistrate P. Bhengu sentenced Klynsmith to 15 years’ imprisonment — of which seven years was conditionally suspended for five years — in terms of a plea agreement negotiated by her advocate, Louis Barnard, and state prosecutor Za Nzimande.

Klynsmith also reached an agreement with the Asset Forfeiture Unit in terms of which she agreed to judgment being taken against her in favour of McBeans for the amount she stole.

However, The Witness established that the judgment is unlikely to be realised since Klynsmith is now in custody and has no assets of her own.

Klynsmith pleaded guilty to 84 counts of fraud against McBeans committed while she was employed as a senior bookkeeper.

According to her plea, she had diverted payments intended for customers and suppliers to her own bank accounts on various occasions.

Brian Egan, the accountant representing McBeans in the case, said in an affidavit before court that he was “totally against” the sentence imposed on Klynsmith and that he did not believe that justice had been done in the matter.

His views were echoed by the investigating officer in the case, Warrant Officer Frans Bezuidenhout, who said in his statement he believed the maximum sentence of 15 years’ (direct) imprisonment ought to have been imposed as a deterrent to Klynsmith and others.

Egan said the reason he was not in favour of part of Klynsmith’s sentence being suspended was that she had done the same thing at her previous place of employment, and had failed to disclose her previous conviction to McBeans.

Egan said if she had done so the company “definitely” would not have employed her. She had misrepresented herself to McBeans as an honest person in order to gain employment and the trust of her employer, he said.

It had now been discovered that Klynsmith pleaded guilty to committing fraud in 2010.

Despite her conviction and suspended jail sentence, she had started stealing money from McBeans five months later. Egan said this demonstrated Klynsmith’s total disregard for the law.

Members of Klynsmith’s family who attended the hearing told The Witness that they did not wish to comment.

Klynsmith, wearing a bright multi-coloured shawl and speaking calmly, confirmed that she had entered into the plea bargain with the state freely and voluntarily.

Immediately after the sentence was pronounced, she was whisked from the courtroom, managing just a hurried wave to her family.

According to the agreement handed to court, she is married and has two adult children.

She admitted having a relevant previous conviction for fraud in terms of which she was ordered to repay money in monthly instalments.

The court was told she is “ashamed” of what she did and keen to participate in rehabilitation programmes in prison, as she admits she “has a problem”.

In terms of yesterday’s agreement, if her suspended sentence in relation to the previous case is brought into operation, she will serve it concurrently with her present jail term.

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