WINDHOEK, 16 AUG – A married couple found guilty in April this year of running a pyramid scheme in which investors lost about N.dollars 11.5 million, was on Thursday sent to jail.
Jeremia van Niekerk, 53, was sentenced to six years imprisonment, while his wife Melanie van Niekerk, 49, was sentenced to four years imprisonment by High Court Judge Alfred Siboleka.
They were further each sentenced to pay a fine of N.dollars 70 000 or serve a prison term of four years.
Meanwhile, the couple’s business associate Charles van Rensburg, 48, was sentenced to two years imprisonment which was wholly suspended for a period of five years on condition that he is not found guilty of the offence of theft, fraud or any other offence involving deceit.
Van Rensburg was also sentenced to pay a fine of N.dollars 70 000 or serve a prison sentence of four years, and was seen making arrangements for the payment of his fine in order to avoid going to prison.
The trio ran the pyramid scheme at Oranjemund between February 2004 and August 2006.
They were all found guilty and sentenced in connection with 256 charges of fraud and theft under false pretences.
They were also each found guilty and punished in respect of the 255 counts related to the contravention of the Banking Institutions Act of 1998 for conducting unauthorised banking business investments without a licence and one count of contravention of the Close Corporations Act of 1988 of reckless or fraudulent carrying on of a close corporation.
“The three persons acted in unison and acted in common purpose to defraud investors,” Judge Siboleka said.
He added that the investors were at all times kept in the dark, lied to and falsely told that their business investments were sound, while this was not the case.
Evidence presented during the trial showed that Jeremia was the 50 per cent shareholder and Melanie the principal agent of the bogus investment business – West Coast Financial Aid – from February 2004 and August 2006.
The business was operated from the Van Niekerks’ residence in Oranjemund’s 13th Avenue.
Deputy Prosecutor-General Ingrid Husselmann appeared for the State, while defence lawyers Johan van Vuuren and Christie Mostert defended the three convicted persons.