Windhoek — Esmereel Cerelda Homses, who was charged with 29 counts of fraud, was found guilty by Judge Alfred Siboleka on only 12 counts.
Homses, who was employed as a manager in the legal department of Santam Namibia, faced 29 charges of fraud, alternatively theft by false pretences. She was accused of defrauding the insurance firm of an amount in excess of N$1.1 million between June 2005 and January 2008. Judge Siboleka said during his judgement that the policy of Santam is that a password should never be made known to others for security reasons, hence it's changed every few months.
This, he said, should have been an indication to Homses who is a legally qualified person, heading the legal department, to understand the huge losses that could easily ensue if this security precaution was not strictly adhered to. He said Homses deliberately ignored this measure and readily made her password known to everybody in her department, and most importantly told them to use it, contrary to policy, the judge remarked.
He further said the accused then turned around and used her own violation of the security measures as a defence by saying that since her password was known to everybody in the legal department, its presence on the 29 claim files before court did not necessarily mean that it was actually herself who requested authorisation of payments on those claims.
According to Judge Siboleka, Homses "is entirely not telling the truth as there are claim files before the court showing that there are third parties to otherwise genuine motor vehicle accidents in which neither they nor their vehicles were involved." He further noted that Homses requested and recommended that they be paid, but in court they personally testified that they never had vehicles of their own; they never claimed from Santam for motor vehicle accident damages and that they had never been to Santam offices to sign any documents, neither did they submit any documents to Santam.
And despite distancing themselves from the fraud, the witnesses testified and confirmed that payments were indeed made into their respective bank accounts.
Judge Siboleka said that taking into account all the evidence submitted, the State has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Santam Insurance would not have suffered any loss whatsoever had it not been for Homses, who requested and recommended that payments be made to fictitious claimants. He said it was clear from the evidence that the crimes were premeditated. He also said Homses at the time she requested and recommended the payments, knew full well that the payees were not entitled to the money.
According to Judge Siboleka, this was a large-scale crime and Homses' modus operandi was complicated to detect because she used various payees and bank accounts whose holders could not be traced by the police. He further said her conduct of availing her password to all in her department, whilst knowing that it is a dismissible offence, was a carefully reasoned tactic to cover her tracks and one which she knew she would use in court as a defence.
The judge cancelled Homses' bail and remanded her in custody until her next court appearance on January 14 next year when she may apply anew for bail.