Windhoek — The former manager of legal affairs for Santam Namibia was sentenced to an effective three-year jail term yesterday by High Court Judge Alfred Siboleka.
Esmereel Cerelda Homses was visibly shaken when Judge Siboleka told the High Court, packed with relatives and friends, that a wholly suspended sentence is not justified in this instance, considering the circumstances of the case and the substantial amount of money involved.
Judge Siboleka sentenced Homses to six years in prison of which three years are suspended for five years on condition that she is not convicted of fraud during the period of suspension. All 12 counts were taken together for the purpose of sentencing.
According to Judge Siboleka, he considered that she was convicted on 12 counts of fraud occasioning a total loss of N$465 243.51 to her employer, violating the trust that was put on her shoulders as the head of the company's legal department.
Another factor he considered, the judge said, was the fact that Homses made available her password to her subordinates, directing them to use it contrary to Santam policy. He said that this conduct on the part of Homses was a carefully reasoned exercise aimed at causing "a lot of dust to cover her tracks of wrongdoings committed over a period of two years and six months".
Judge Siboleka said the fact that Homses is a first offender at the age of 35, and that she has an eight-year-old school-going child and the fact that she has started a spiritual process of changing her bad past were all also taken into account.
He further alluded to the fact that Santam withheld all Homses' pension money in terms of its policy, with a view to start a process of recovering the losses it has suffered.
During sentencing, Judge Siboleka emphasised that when considering an appropriate sentence the court must weigh up the personal circumstances of an accused, the crime and the interests of society. He said that one factor is likely to be overemphasised in the process, making it a rather difficult exercise.
He said although the court would consider the element of mercy, it must remind itself in the same vein about the objectives of punishment namely prevention, deterrence, reformation and retribution. He asserted that a fine balance must be struck between the interests of the accused, society and the crime in relation to the objectives of punishment.
Homses was convicted on 12 of the 29 offences she faced in November last year and was imprisoned after her bail was revoked. She is accused of defrauding the insurance giant to the tune of N$1 149 066.62 between June 2005 and January 2008.