EDITORIAL : Pay back money in national fraud too

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Even when the victim is no longer alive there are no victimless crimes, as was shown by a national bank leading a civil prosecution against two men who stole R2.4m from a deceased woman’s estate.
In a SA where murder, rape and hijacking are everyday realities, there are those who view white collar fraud as a lesser crime but, however much extremists may try to justify certain illegal actions, there is no logical reason to steal.
In addition, the case we reported on Monday did, however, have clear victims, namely the four children who were cheated out of their inheritance in their late mother’s will.
Standard Bank was forced to reimburse the family to the tune of this large sum and applied for a civil judgment against the two men. Specifically, it is asking that the pair pay back the money even if this takes 30 years or more.
The two convicted men now face a prescribed minimum sentence of 15 years’ imprisonment on the fraud count alone which may seem harsh, but it sends out a message that serious crime does not pay.
At the same time on the political front, the fruits of nine years or more of corruption, mismanagement and state capture can never be said to be “victimless” crimes.
In this regard we encourage the office of the national director of public prosecutions (NDPP) to take similar firm action to recoup money stolen from innocent SA citizens.
We welcome the news that President Cyril Ramaphosa last week appointed advocate Hermione Theresa Cronje as head of the investigating directorate in the office of the NDPP.
Veteran, tenacious and tough are some of the words used to describe her, and we encourage Cronje to get down to her task with the diligence she is known for.
Admittedly Cronje has a far larger task as the scope runs into the billions, and it may take the NDPP years to ferret out and prosecute fraudsters in the civil service.
The millions of victims of corruption and state capture deserve no less than one elderly women and her family.
The call for them too should be to pay back the money.

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