People entrusted with public funds should not think they are shielded from the consequences of crimes that they commit in their positions, a High Court judge warned yesterday while sentencing a former bank official to an effective prison term of 15 years on fraud charges involving more than N$5 million.
Judge Dinnah Usiku sentenced former Standard Bank Namibia employee Charles Manale (35) to 17 years’ imprisonment on 147 charges of fraud, with two years of that sentence suspended for a period of five years, and also handed him a concurrent jail term of five years on a charge of money laundering.
Manale admitted in the Windhoek High Court in September last year that he defrauded Standard Bank Namibia during the period from January 2011 to December 2015, when he was employed at the bank as a senior estate and trust officer, by submitting false payment requests on estates handled by the bank, and then also authorising the payments made as a result of the requests.
He stole a total amount of N$5,05 million through the scam he had set up, he also admitted.
Manale told the court in February this year that he was not in a position to pay back any money to the bank, since he had spent all of the more than N$5 million on entertainment and helping friends and relatives – and also some of their church choirs – financially, judge Usiku recounted during the sentencing.
Manale committed the crimes while employed in a position of trust, which he abused, judge Usiku commented. His sentence should send a powerful message to people entrusted with public funds, who should know that if they commit crimes, they would be held to account to the full extent of the law, the judge warned.
Noting that Manale defrauded the bank while being gainfully employed, the judge said she could only conclude that he committed the fraud out of greed, and not need.
Manale told the court that he started off committing fraud on a small scale, but the scale of his crimes escalated, and it became an addiction which he could not stop, and with which he continued although he knew he would be caught eventually.
It was aggravating that the fraud he committed was deliberately planned and perpetrated 147 times over a period of five years, during which he had ample time for reflection and to have a change of heart, judge Usiku also remarked.