Swakop estate agent guilty of stealing Congolese general's money
16 September 2020 | Crime
A Swakopmund estate accused of stealing US$900 000 from a Democratic Republic of Congo military general ten years ago has been found guilty of six charges of theft and money laundering.
On Friday, Windhoek High Court judge Eileen Rakow convicted Erwin Rosalia Ludovic Sprangers on six of the seven criminal charges related to the monies paid into his account by General Francois Olenga between February and July 2010 for real estate projects in Namibia.
Sprangers' wife had initially also been charged, but she was aquitted last year.
Alongside the charges brought by the state, Olenga has also concluded a successful civil case against Sprangers, in which he sued for the recovery of his money.
Six out of seven
Rakow acquitted Sprangers on the first charge of fraud, saying the state did not prove fraud “beyond a reasonable doubt”.
The court was not convinced that the accused “had a fraudulent intention to defraud the complainant during the conversation where the development of the plots was discussed,” Rakow said.
She did, however, find him guilty of counts two to six of the offence of theft by conversion in that Sprangers misappropriated the genera’s funds which were placed in his control to develop or purchase fixed property in Namibia.
She said instead Sprangers applied the money for his personal use.
Rakow underlined nevertheless that the court did take into account that Sprangers had paid back US$50 000 f to Olenga.
Moreover, in terms of the seventh charge of money laundering, Rakow said the court was satisfied that the state had proven Sprangers had unlawfully transferred the bulk of the stolen money to his home loan scheme, which in effect concealed the origin of the funds and the legal owner of the funds.
During the trial, the state argued that Sprangers, owner of Kintscher Estate Agents and Auctioneers, had known Olenga since 2003.
During January 2010 the duo agreed orally that Olenga would pay U$900 000, or N$6 785 318.76 at the time, into the Kintscher Estate Agents trust banking account to develop and invest in real estate in Namibia.
The state argued that Sprangers agreed to spend the money only with the direct instructions of Olenga.
The money was paid over during 5 different transactions during the period February to July 2010.
The state then alleged that the Accused did not use the money as agreed to and as approved by Olenga, but that it was used by Sprangers for his own purposes and that he failed to pay back the money upon the request when Olenga asked him to.
Sprangers denied the charges and told the court that the money was paid into his account in payment for a high-value antique Chinese vase for which Olenga had identified a buyer.
He argued that Olenga had arranged the sale of the vase and the money was due to him. He claimed the vase was a rare 18th-century Qiaolong Chinese vase.
He told the court that the vase was from his deceased sister who received it from a deceased aunt.
He was, however, unable to provide documentary proof, including a photograph, of the vase in question.
Moreover, although he testified that his wife and ex-wife and two eldest daughters knew of the existence of the vase, none of them was called to testify to confirm the existence of the said vase.
He further claimed that although he had not been paid in full for the vase, he handed it over to two unknown men, and that no documentary proof of the buyers, the purchase or of the vase existed.
He claimed further that he was not aware of the identity of the buyer, who wanted to remain anonymous, and who had paid the money into his account.
Olenga denied any knowledge of the vase.
Rakow on Friday said the evidence that had been placed before the court did not support the version of the accused as reasonably or possibly true.
She said although there were discrepancies in the evidence of the state witnesses, she took into account that the events under review took place 10 years ago.
Overall, she said the “evidence presented by the State is probable and rejects the version of the accused.”
Jan Wessels of Stern & Barnard represented Sprangers while the state was represented by State Advocate Erick Moyo.
Sprangers is currently in police custody awaiting sentencing. The case was postponed to later this month for a presentence hearing.