Namibia: Coastal Estate Agent Guilty of Theft

15 September 2020

Windhoek High Court acting Judge Eileen Rakow last week convicted coastal estate agent Erwin Sprangers on five counts of theft by conversion and one count of money laundering but acquitted him on a count of fraud over N$6.7 million he stole from Democratic Republic of Congo army general Francois Olenga.

According to Rakow, while intention to defraud forms an integral element of the crime of fraud, no such intention was proven by the State and she must therefore give the accused the benefit of the doubt. However, she found, the State proved beyond a reasonable doubt the 59-year-old Sprangers used the general's money without his permission and he is thus guilty of theft by conversion.

She further found Sprangers was aware that the money was proceeds of an illegal activity when he so used it and thus guilty of money laundering. Sprangers alone faced charges of fraud and money laundering and together with his former wife faced five charges of theft by conversion alternatively theft.

The judge had already discharged the former wife of Sprangers in December last year after her Legal Aid lawyer Quinton Haoseb applied for her discharge during a section 174 application. The judge found that Lorinda Sprangers took no part in the dealings between her former husband and the general.

The matter arises from a business transaction between Sprangers and Olenga during January 2010 when it was agreed that Olenga would deposit US$900 000 into the trust banking account of Sprangers' estate agency, Kintcher Estates, as trust money for the development of two properties the general owned at the coast or for the acquisition of further properties for Olenga.

It was charged by the State that Sprangers misrepresented to Olenga that he would only spend the funds on "expenditure expressly approved" by Olenga and would upon demand pay back the funds to the general. During the period extending from 10 February 2010 to 6 July 2010, the complainant's funds totalling N$6 785 318.76 were transferred by Breadfield Trade Ltd on the instructions of Olenga in five tranches into the Kintscher Estate Agents and Auctioneers' First National Bank banking account.

Furthermore, the State said, once the money was in the said bank account, Sprangers', between 1 February 2010 and 31 December 2010 stole or misappropriated it and or converted all of the general's money for his own use. Sprangers was already hit with a court order to pay Olenga US$850 000 by High Court Judge Thomas Masuku during a civil suit by Olenga to recover his money.

Sprangers bail was cancelled upon his conviction and he is remanded in custody at Seeis Police Station until his return to court on 25 September for pre-sentencing procedures. - rrouth@nepc-com.na

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