The ex-husband and former co-accused of a woman serving an eight-year term of imprisonment on fraud charges involving N$4,2 million has now been convicted on 32 counts of theft and one charge of money laundering.
Judge Christie Liebenberg found Isak Serfontein (48) not guilty of 32 counts of fraud, but instead convicted him of 32 charges of theft and a count of money laundering, in a judgement delivered in the Windhoek High Court on Friday last week.
The judge found Serfontein guilty after concluding that his claims that his former wife, Stephanie Serfontein, was operating his bank account and he was unaware that more than N$17 million which flowed through the account was money she embezzled from her then employer "has all the makings of an afterthought".
Considering Serfontein's version - that he did not operate his own bank account, had difficulty doing online banking on the account, and also did not stay informed about what was going on in the account - against the proven facts in the case, "it is evident that the accused indeed accessed his bank account and was able to operate the [online banking] system", judge Liebenberg said.
He further said it was inescapable to conclude that Serfontein's defence was not reasonably possible. From the outset, Serfontein acted hand-in-glove with Stephanie Serfontein while she transferred money from an account of her then employer, the company Ferrodrill Namibia, to his account, and both of them benefited from the money stolen from Ferrodrill, the judge found.
Serfontein denied guilt on all charges when his trial started in September last year - six months after his former wife had been sentenced to an effective eight years' imprisonment after she admitted guilt on 34 counts of fraud and a charge of money laundering.
Stephanie Serfontein admitted that she defrauded Ferrodrill, where she was employed as a senior administrator, in Windhoek from October 2009 to July 2012 by inflating the amounts on invoices received from creditors of the company, creating fake invoices reflecting the inflated amounts, and substituting the creditors' bank account details on the invoices with those of her daughter or her husband.
More than N$17,6 million was paid from Ferrodrill's account into bank accounts of Stephanie Serfontein's daughter and Isak Serfontein, and out of that amount a total of N$13,3 million was paid to Ferrodrill's creditors, while she and Isak Serfontein kept more than N$4,2 million for themselves, she told the court.
The amounts that remained left over in Serfontein's bank account and which the couple used for themselves after Ferrodrill's creditors had been paid from his account came to a total of close to N$4,04 million.
Judge Liebenberg noted in his judgement that after the couple separated in March 2011 and divorced in November that year, Stephanie Serfontein continued to use Isak's bank account to siphon money out of the account of Ferrodrill, until she was caught out in July 2012. Although Isak did not personally make any misrepresentation to Ferrodrill, he benefited from the proceeds of the fraudulent transactions that Stephanie was carrying out, the judge found.
Serfontein had been free on a warning from the court, but was ordered to remain in custody following the delivery of the verdict. He is due to return to court for a pretrial hearing on 7 February.
Serfontein is being represented by defence lawyer Jan Wessels. State advocate Constance Moyo is prosecuting.