Estate agent guilty of stealing Congolese general's money

16 September 2020 | Justice

JANA-MARI SMITH

WINDHOEK



A Swakopmund estate agent accused of stealing US$900 000 (N$6.7 million) from a Democratic Republic of Congo military general ten years ago has been found guilty on six charges of theft and money laundering.

On Friday, Windhoek High Court judge Eileen Rakow convicted Erwin 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's wife had initially also been charged, but she was acquitted 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 general's funds placed in his control to develop or purchase fixed property in Namibia. She said Sprangers applied the money for his personal use instead.

Rakow underlined nevertheless that the court did take into account that Sprangers had paid back US$50 000 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.



Bad deal

During the trial, the State argued that Sprangers, owner of Kintscher Estate Agents and Auctioneers, had known Olenga since 2003. During January 2010 the two agreed orally that Olenga would pay U$900 000, or N$6 785 318.76 at the time, into the Kintscher Estate Agents trust account to develop and invest in real estate in Namibia.

The State argued that Sprangers agreed to spend the money only with direct instructions from Olenga.

The money was paid over in five different transactions between February and July 2010. The State alleged that Sprangers did not use the money as agreed to but for his own purposes and that he failed to pay back the money when Olenga asked him to.



Proof

Rakow said the evidence did not support Sprangers' version 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 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 pre-sentence hearing.