Sentencing proceedings halted after man convicted of Experian data breach fails to appear in court

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The Palm Ridge Magistrate's Court.
The Palm Ridge Magistrate's Court.
Tehillah Niselow
  • A convicted businessman and IT technician has failed to face his sentencing proceedings in court again.
  • Karabo Phungula did not arrive in court as expected.
  • Phungula was convicted after fraudulently acquiring data of more than 23 million South Africans and nearly 800 000 businesses.

A businessman convicted of illegally acquiring the personal and business data of millions of South Africans from data services firm Experian, failed to appear in the Johannesburg Commercial Crimes Court.

The court, sitting in Palm Ridge, had been expected to begin its sentencing against convicted businessman and IT technician Karabo Phungula.

Previously, he failed to appear in the same courtroom, forcing the court to forfeit his R3 000 bail.

On Friday, prosecutor advocate Phuti Matabane said Phungula had brought another bail application last week.

"The court considered it and later refused [him bail]. He was then remanded. The matter was then postponed to today for sentencing to begin. I have prepared [State] witnesses to testify. Earlier today, I learnt from the court orderly that Phungula was not in court again."

Matabane added he did not know why Phungula's name was not on the court roll.

"He is in the Johannesburg Prison. I have completed the requisition form for 28 March in the event he can't be released to come to court.

READ | Businessman convicted of Experian data breach skips sentencing, court issues warrant for his arrest

"I spoke to the investigating officer who was at the Johannesburg Prison to enquire why Phungula was not brought to court.

"The officer said prison officials could not release him at that time [midday]. They had to return him to the cells and conduct their regular counting.

Matabane said:

He was brought late to a section where they are kept before leaving for court. We have resolved that to avoid him not coming, the investigating officer will personally bring him to court. That would be safer, faster, and would not consume the court's time.

Phungula was convicted of fraud and theft in October last year.

Experian's primary business is to receive reports or investigate credit applications, credit agreements, payment history or patterns, or consumer credit information relating to consumers or prospective consumers, as well as compiling and maintaining data and issuing reports concerning consumers and businesses.

In May 2020, it handed over the data of more than 23 million people and nearly 800 000 businesses to Phungula, who impersonated a businessman authorised to have the information.

The breach was detected on 22 July by Experian. 

Sentencing proceedings are expected to begin on 28 March.

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