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It is well documented fact that since the late 1990s our courts have clamped down on white collar crime. As a result people who perpetrate fraud are often handed down heavy sentences for the commission of a crime. The perception that previously existed that criminals perpetrating fraud would be treated by courts with so-called gloves on, has long been dispelled by our High Courts.
A good example of this is the recent matter of State v Kwatsha 2013 (1) SACR 311 (Kwazulu-Natal High Court Pietermaritzburg). A financial advisor working for a bank had been convicted of 37 counts of fraud involving more than R6 million. The victims that were prejudiced by his conduct were all vulnerable poor people.
Whenever a person is found guilty of fraud in excess of R500 000 a mandatory sentence of 15years ought to be imposed. Our courts have often deviated from this minimum sentence by imposing lesser sentences.
Mr Kwatsha sought to highlight the fact that he was a first offender and hence this fact justified the court in imposing a lesser sentence. This was rejected by the court and he was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment.
This matter clearly illustrates that when it comes to white collar crime it does not pay.