Tearful Majiedt admits massive fraud

July 6, 2015, 9:02am

Tearful Majiedt admits massive fraud

By Werner Menges

MORE than four years after her arrest on multimillion-dollar fraud charges, former cement company employee Esmerelda Majiedt has finally admitted guilt.
A tearful Majiedt pleaded guilty to 404 counts of fraud in the Windhoek High Court on Friday. In a plea explanation handed to Judge Christie Liebenberg, Majiedt (50) admitted that she committed fraud for five years while employed with the cement company AfriSam Namibia, and that this cost the company N$56,5 million - the biggest amount of money that anyone accused of fraud in a Namibian court, has been convicted of having embezzled to date.
After Majiedt confirmed her plea explanation - speaking in a whisper and nervously kneading a handkerchief as she appeared to fight back tears - Judge Liebenberg convicted her on the charges on which she admitted guilt.
She pleaded to the charges after state advocate Ed Marondedze had told the judge the prosecution was withdrawing all charges against the five people who were due to stand trial with her, and was also withdrawing four of the 628 charges that Majiedt was facing.
In her plea explanation, Majiedt exonerated her co-accused in respect of their alleged involvement in the fraud she admitted having committed.
She stated that Rundu-based businessman Daniel Baptista De Jesus and building contractor brothers Calvin and Gerald Bezuidenhout, who had paid her in cash when she allowed them to pay discounted prices for cement worth tens of millions of Namibia dollars that they bought from AfriSam Namibia, were not aware that she was defrauding her employer. The other two accused - her sister, Louise Izaaks, and James Wilson - were also not aware that money which she was paying into a bank account of a close corporation of theirs and into a personal account of Isaaks was the proceeds of her fraudulent activities, Majiedt added.
The court received Majiedt's plea, after talks between the prosecution and her defence lawyers about the plea that she was prepared to offer on the 628 charges she was facing, had been delaying the start of her trial since Monday last week.
In her plea explanation Majiedt said she manipulated AfriSam Namibia's accounting system, shifting funds from the accounts of other customers of the company or from a freight clearance account of AfriSam to make it appear as if De Jesus' business, Discount Hardware (Rundu Build It), and the Bezuidenhouts' Cool Properties had made deposits into AfriSam's bank account to pay for cement ordered from the company. After the delivery of the ordered cement had been authorised by AfriSam's accounting system, she reversed the dummy deposits she had made to make it appear that the businesses of De Jesus and the Bezuidenhouts had paid for the cement that they bought from AfriSam.
The first fraudulent transaction, involving an amount of N$24 756, was done at the end of January 2006. Majiedt operated undetected for five years, with the last fraudulent transactions done at the end of January 2011.
Before accepting Majiedt's plea and withdrawing the charges against her co-accused, the state was alleging that Majiedt sold cement valued at N$37,8 million to De Jesus, and also sold cement with a value of N$15,1 million to the Bezuidenhout brothers.
Majiedt admitted on Friday that AfriSam Namibia indeed suffered losses in those amounts as alleged. She further admitted that she also sold cement to the value of N$3,5 million and channelled the payments that she received through the bank account of the close corporation of her sister and Wilson.
At the end of her plea explanation, Majiedt said she wanted to express her “sincerest apology” to AfriSam Namibia and the court, and wanted to assure everyone “that I have the utmost regret and remorse”.
“I am sorry,” her statement ended.
Majiedt was arrested in April 2011 and kept in custody for a year-and-a-half before she was granted bail in an amount of N$250 000. Having been found guilty on Friday, her bail was withdrawn and she was told she would have to stay in police custody until the scheduled start of the pre-sentence phase of her trial on 2 September.
Majiedt is being represented by defence lawyers Louis Botes and Bradley Basson.

The Namibian