Thursday, October 22, 2020

Former civil servants in P500 000 fraud case lose appeal

On Monday, two former Botswana government employees lost their appeal against conviction and sentence before Francistown judge, Moses Chinhengo, after they failed to prove why the court should grant them a lenient sentence and further review their conviction.

Odumeleng Mosarwa, the 1st appellant and Christinah Matlapeng, the 2nd appellant, were both convicted by a Maun magistrate after stealing as public servants on 20 March 2005 an amount of P500 000 from the government coffers in Maun.

Facts of the case further reveal that the appellants being employees of the Botswana government, and acting jointly, stole the money from where they worked as accounts officers under the Department of Revenue in Maun. It is indicated that the appellants jointly obtained money from the Barclays Bank under false pretence that the money was going to be paid to the farmers and suppliers in Maun and the money never reached its intended destination.

In 2005, they were sentenced to 5 years imprisonment, of which two years were suspended on condition that they do not commit a similar offence. They were also ordered to compensate the government an amount of P250 000 each.

However, representing the Mosarwa, Maun-based attorney, Lawrence Lecha, of Lecha Attorneys, argued that his client was imposed a harsh sentence as she is a first offender and had served the government for 23 years. He said she had obviously lost all her benefits due to the conviction.
“My client is subjected to double punishment because she is already languishing in jail and she is yet to pay back the money,” he added.

Lecha begged the court to be lenient, saying that when the court makes its order for the appellant to pay back the money, it should consider that she has been granted a custodial sentence.
Lecha said that the case is not aggravated in any way because the appellants had served the government in two decades and have accounted for money worth more than P500 000 in their career and never committed such an offence.

Submitting some of his arguments, Francistown lawyer Phazha Kgalemang, who represented Matlapeng, also indicated that his client should not be implicated in the offence on the issue of common purpose as presented by the prosecution, adding that the requirements of acting commonly in an offence had not been proved.

“It has been held too often to require repetition that in order for an accused to be guilty on the basis of common purposes all the requirements should be met but in this case not all those requirements were met,” he told court.

However, giving judgment, Justice Chinhengo pointed out that by ignoring all the procedures and documentation on usage of the money, the appellants had committed an offence as they were outweighed by the evidence led in court. He went further to dismiss the fact that the sentence was harsh, saying that the appellants were dealing in huge sums of public funds.

“With the issue of common purpose, I believe that the facts in this case speak for themselves to link both the accused to the offence,” Chinhengo maintained.

The Judge dismissed the appeal on the grounds that there is sufficient evidence linking both the appellants to the offence and also indicated that the magistrate arrived at a good decision in convicting and sentencing them.

The state was represented by Unangoni Tema from the Department of Public Prosecution.

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