Runaway lawyer to know her fate today in R95 000 theft case
Facing sentencing today, a crooked former magistrate can be certain of two things – she faces a jail term and the Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU) is ready to seize her belongings.
Her last-ditch attempt yesterday in offering to repay the money she stole from an indigent former client was silenced by the prosecution, who said this could be seen as “justice bought”.
State advocate Bongo Mvinjelwa said if Pumla Silinga, 47, an attorney who later became a magistrate while on the run from the law, was sincere in her offer to repay, she would have done so back in 2013 when she was first arrested for the theft.
Now, after a two-year stint on the run from police, Silinga must rely on the services of a Legal Aid lawyer, claiming that her husband, Coega chief executive Pepi Silinga, had cut her off financially.
Mvinjelwa told the Port Elizabeth Commercial Crimes Court that it was now in the state’s hands to recover the stolen funds and that the AFU was there for that very reason. Silinga was arrested in November 2013 for stealing R95 000 from her client’s trust account between July 2007 and September 2007, while practising as an attorney in Port Elizabeth.
She was the director of Silinga Attorneys at the time and had been tasked with facilitating the transfer of a property. The money was to be held in trust until the transfer had been completed and registered, and the money paid to the seller.
But Silinga drew cheques from the trust account.
When she failed to appear in court in February 2014, an arrest warrant was issued.
Police managed to trace her only in April this year, when it was discovered she had been acting as a magistrate in Mthatha.
After pleading guilty to the theft count and contempt of court for failing to appear, Silinga was again released on warning on April 14. But she went on the run again.
Silinga was nabbed in Mthatha earlier this month and has been in custody.
In seeking a postponement yesterday, defence advocate Motsamai Marele said a correctional supervision report was not yet ready as the officer had been unable to reach Silinga while on the run.
Magistrate Hannes Claassen agreed with Mvinjelwa that this was Silinga’s own doing and said the ship had sailed when it came to correctional supervision as a possible sentence option.
He agreed to postpone sentencing to today.