A LAW graduate who has been convicted of defrauding her former employer, insurance company Santam Namibia, to the tune of almost half a million Namibia dollars was sent to prison for an effective three years yesterday.
Judge Alfred Siboleka sentenced Esmereel Homses (35), a former manager of Santam Namibia's legal department, in the High Court in Windhoek to six years' imprisonment, of which three years were suspended for a period of five years on condition that Homses is not convicted of fraud, committed during the period of suspension.
Judge Siboleka convicted Homses on 12 counts of fraud on December 6. He acquitted her on another 17 charges of fraud.
Homses was accused of having defrauded Santam Namibia, or having stolen a total of N$1,149 million from the company, between June 2005 and the end of January 2008.
The fraud or theft was allegedly committed when claims for insurance payments lodged with the company were paid out to people who were not entitled to receive such payments. The prosecution also alleged that Homses later collected the money from the people who had received the payments and rewarded them with a token amount for the use of their bank accounts.
The charges on which Homses was found guilty involved a total amount of N$465 243.
Homses has two degrees in law, and worked as a public prosecutor for about eight months before she was employed by Santam Namibia, Judge Siboleka was informed after the delivery of his verdict.
She was dismissed by Santam Namibia in March 2008 as a result of investigations into the alleged fraud in which she had been involved.
Having lost her job, she was also deserted by her husband, an Angolan national whom she had married in 2004, the judge was also told.
Defence lawyer Sisa Namandje, who represented Homses during her trial, further told the judge that she unreservedly regretted the offences she was found guilty of.
With the sentencing yesterday, Judge Siboleka said he was taking into account that Homses was a first-time offender, that she has a school-going child aged eight, and that she has turned to religion since her dismissal by Santam Namibia.
He said he was also taking into account that Homses violated the trust that Santam Namibia had placed in her, and that the fraud she was convicted of had been committed over a period of about two and a half years.
In the circumstances of her case a fully suspended sentence would not be appropriate, Judge Siboleka told Homses.
"Deterrence to the accused and would-be offenders would be in order," he said.
State advocate Ed Marondedze prosecuted.