Congo general awarded N$12m settlement

20 June 2019 | Justice

Congolese general Francois Olenga was awarded a settlement of US$850 000 (N$12 350 500 at yesterday's exchange rate) by the High Court of Namibia on Monday.

Olenga had sued Swakopmund-based estate agent Erwin Sprangers for monies he transferred into Sprangers' account for the purposes of acquiring a property.

Judge Thomas Masuku, in his judgment, held that although Sprangers had denied the amount was paid into his account and moreover, “averred that the amount was paid by a buyer who had been introduced to him by Olenga for the purchase of an 18th century Chinese vase”, the version given to the court by Olenga “is more probable and consistent”.

Masuku said that witnesses from Hungary had testified how the monies had been transferred, at the instance of Olenga, into Sprangers' bank account. Sprangers' “version regarding the sale of the vase was highly improbable as it had many gaping holes that were left unexplained, rendering it not worthy of credit”, Masuku said.

Masuku further charged that 20% interest would be levied on the amount from the date of issue of summons and instructed Sprangers to pay the costs of the action - one instructed and one instructing counsel for both legal teams. The matter was originally brought before the court in 2011. General Olenga, a Congolese army chief who leads the onslaught against the M23 rebels in his country, brought the matter to retrieve the money he left with Sprangers. He said the money was to be used for the development and expansion of a property Olenga owns at Swakopmund.

Olenga told the court he and Sprangers entered into an oral agreement in January 2010 regarding the development of the property.

Olenga owns two plots at the coastal resort town. Thus, the amount of US$900 000 was paid into the trust account of Kintscher Estate Agents and Auctioneers, for whom Sprangers worked as an estate agent. In September the same year, Olenga asked Sprangers to pay US$100 000 into his bank account, but only US$50 000 was paid, leaving Sprangers with US$850 000 of Olenga's money. He said he never instructed Sprangers to use any of the remaining money. In December 2010, Olenga asked Sprangers to give back the remaining money - a request that to date was not complied with. Ramon Maasdorp appeared for Olenga and Ankia Delport for Sprangers. Criminal charges have been brought against Sprangers and his wife Heidi. A matter of five counts of theft by conversion and one of fraud will be heard in the High Court.

YANNA SMITH