White collar crime wave

2015-07-08 09:40

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FORMER electronics shop tycoon Kay Makan, whose businesses have shut down after being robbed by a finance clerk, ironically sits on a special team tasked with fighting business crime in Pietermaritzburg.

Koos Vorster, chairperson of the Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business’s Business Fighting Crime division, said he was saddened by Makan’s loss (the businessman sits on the same committee).

“He is the last man who I would expect this to happen to,” he said.

Vorster said while there was no comprehensive data on white collar crime, it damages any business.

“It takes its toll on productivity and turnover, and then eventually retrenchments follow, as is the case in the closure of Makan’s stores,” he said.

Makan has admitted to The Witness that he closed his empire in part due to the theft of just over R1 million by a staff member who pleaded guilty to the crime on Monday.

Durban lawyer Peter Feuilherade, who chairs the KwaZulu-Natal White Collar Crime Task Team, said there was an imperative, as in Makan’s case, for businesses big and small to report and follow through with criminal proceedings: “If we do not convict the person, history has shown that they simply move on to other businesses and continue with their behaviour,” he said.

Feuilherade said the Criminal Procedure Act also allows for the leaders in a business to be held responsible for not reporting white collar crime in excess of R100 000.

“I don’t know of anyone such as a municipal manager or general manager who has been sentenced (under the act, for failing to report a crime), but if someone was sentenced for sweeping fraud under the carpet, it would certainly bring more attention and awareness to the need to see prosecutions through,” said Feuilherade.

The scale of white collar crime in the country is largely unknown, but experts have estimated it to be at nearly R930 million per year.

Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business CEO Melanie Veness said from cases she was aware of, it was often “trusted” employees who were found to be stealing from the bottom line.

“The bigger companies often pursue these matters, but smaller businesses often don’t, becoming concerned about the employee’s family and children. It is difficult to comprehend how a person who you looked in the eye daily and trusted completely would ultimately be stealing from you. It must be devastating,” said Veness.

She said the guilty employees in the cases she was aware of usually spent the money on non-necessities

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  business

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