Namibia: Alleged Bank Thief Claims Husband's Life Was At Stake

ENGELBORG Strauss (47) gave the police several versions of why she allegedly stole over N$1,1 million from Standard Bank's Arandis branch last week; one being that her husband's life was at stake.

Strauss, who is the branch manager, last Thursday morning allegedly took N$800 000 cash from the bank's safe before giving it to an unknown person who had waited on the B2 highway running past the Arandis turnoff.

Later the same day, the unknown person allegedly contacted her to deposit an additional N$306 000 into a Bank Windhoek account, details of which were sent to her via SMS. She made the deposit.

Erongo police commander Andreas Nelumbu said one of Strauss' versions involved her husband, who is a senior administrative official at the Arandis town council.

According to Nelumbu, Strauss claimed she was being harassed by people who threatened to kill her husband if she did not pay them the money. When she paid them, they demanded more.

Nelumbu said that no money was recovered, nor has anyone else been arrested yet. He further said the money deposited into the Bank Windhoek account was withdrawn immediately at a branch at Oshakati, suggesting a possible organised activity. "There are procedures to follow when making withdrawals of such large funds. It seems the people involved were aware of these processes," said Nelumbu.

Another version Strauss gave was that the unknown person to whom she gave the money, promised her that she would get double the amount back.

Asked what she meant by this, Nelumbu said that people fall for all sorts of schemes to make money, and that this may have been one such get-rich-quick scheme. What does not make sense to the police though is that Strauss could not identify the person she entrusted the stolen money to, and apparently just

indicated that it was an unknown person. "People cannot just give such large sums of money to people they do not even know and hope for some sort of promise that they will make a huge profit from it. It does not make sense," said Nelumbu.

He said the police have a duty to investigate all the claims made by Strauss in an attempt to recover the money and arrest more possible suspects. Strauss, who was arrested last Friday made her first court appearance on a charge of theft before Swakopmund magistrate Conchita Olivier. The state prosecutor opposed the granting of bail on grounds of the seriousness of the crime, and that investigations were still at a preliminary stage. The matter was postponed to 2 June for further investigation. Strauss will remain in custody until then.

Her husband also attended the proceedings but did not wish to comment on the case.

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