By: Kelvin Chiringa
Stephanie Serfontein, who last week made headlines for pleading guilty to 34 charges of fraud involving some N$17 million she stole from a drilling, will now spend the rest of the next eight years in jail.
Serfontein momentarily broke down in tears as the judge suspended five years from her sentence on the condition that she did not commit the same crime again in five years.
She was also facing a 35th charge for money laundering to which she was given five years, but this will run concurrently with her effective sentence of eight years.
The High Court Judge who presided over her short trial which immediately commenced after her guilty-plea said his judgement had a blend of mercy in it.
He said that his mercy over her was not due to his being sympathetic but that he was satisfied that she had proven to be remorseful.
“Fraud itself is a serious and ugly crime, especially committed by a person in a position of trust. Crimes of dishonesty are prevalent in our society,” said the Judge before passing sentence.
Serfontein received consolation from her two children and relatives who showed up for the trial.
However, this came shortly after she attempted to commit suicide when she got spooked by the prospect of having to be shut up in prison.
She will be in her advanced 50’s when she comes out.
Serfontein admitted that she turned out to be “a Judas” at Ferrodrill where she was employed, and inflated invoices for creditors so she could pocket millions of monies for herself.
The court heard that Ferrodrill actually lost some N$4 million as a result.
She cooked up this plan with her now former husband, pressured by a heavy debt burden and bankruptcy as well as a need to save “my marriage which was in shambles”, she told the court.
The husband has so far refused to plead guilty and a trial awaits him.
However, the prosecutor slammed her during mitigation, for failing to live within her means and adopting a flashy lifestyle typified by renting in a leafy suburb and sending her son to an expensive private school.
“Many people in this country are poor but they don’t go out to steal. The accused was stealing out of greed than need. Nothing of the N$4 million has been recovered and she made no effort at reparation despite being gainfully employed,” said the prosecutor.
During the time she was being investigated, Serfontein was employed by several companies with her salary topping to N$20 000.
But in spite of this flow of money, she said she could not pay back what she stole because she was not supposed to be in touch with her former employer and that any payments would be a drop in the ocean.
She sent an apology to them but never got a response, she admitted.