Fraud ac­cused blames po­lice bungling

Diamond Fields Advertiser - - NEWS - MURRAY SWART STAFF REPORTER

PO­LICE in­com­pe­tence, com­bined with the deaths of key wit­nesses, has been blamed for the in­car­cer­a­tion of a Kim­ber­ley woman, who is fac­ing charges of de­fraud­ing vul­ner­a­ble city res­i­dents who were fac­ing per­sonal fi­nan­cial prob­lems.

The ac­cused, 51-year-old Les­ley Nieuwen­huizen, is fac­ing mul­ti­ple charges, in­clud­ing fraud and money laun­der­ing, stem­ming from two cases and will re­main in cus­tody un­til her trial con­tin­ues to­day.

Yes­ter­day, Nieuwen­huizen took the stand and tes­ti­fied that the deaths of two fi­nan­cial con­sul­tants, Claudette Visser and Jo­han van Vu­uren, had been to her detri­ment as the pair were now not able to tes­tify on her be­half.

She added that this sit­u­a­tion could eas­ily have been avoided had the two cases cur­rently be­fore the court, been in­cluded in an ear­lier fraud trial, dat­ing back to 2006.

Shortly be­fore court ad­journed yes­ter­day af­ter­noon, Nieuwen­huizen blamed po­lice in­com­pe­tence for much of her time in cus­tody. She al­leged that the only rea­son why these two cases were not in­cluded in her pre­vi­ous trial, which re­sulted in a sin­gle fraud con­vic­tion in 2011, when Van Vu­uren and Visser were still alive to tes­tify, was be­cause a mul­ti­tude of doc­u­ments had gone miss­ing.

“These cases come from 2008 and 2010 and I was sen­tenced in 2011,” she tes­ti­fied yes­ter­day. “Most of the rel­e­vant doc­u­ments and state­ments were taken be­fore 2011.

“My point is that ev­ery­one was aware of these cases and the wit­nesses were avail­able to tes­tify. If they (po­lice) had done their work prop­erly and used wit­nesses, I would not need to tes­tify now.

“The po­lice had the time to get the rel­e­vant state­ments from peo­ple who were still alive then.

“I was in cus­tody for 15 months and the law en­force­ment were well aware of these cases, but they didn’t pro­ceed with them un­til two months be­fore I was due for pa­role.”

Un­der cross-ex­am­i­na­tion, Nieuwen­huizen ex­plained that her pre­vi­ous trial in­volved 31 cases, 20 of which couldn’t be re­solved be­cause there were no dock­ets avail­able.

She added yes­ter­day that dock­ets for Marthi­nus Claasen and Brenda van Aswe­gen, the two cases that are cur­rently be­fore the court, were prob­a­bly among those that couldn’t be traced.

“It was be­cause the po­lice lost their files that I am still sit­ting. Jus­tice should be for both par­ties. They (Visser and Van Vu­uren) could have tes­ti­fied had po­lice not lost the dock­ets. The ini­tial trial lasted for five years.”

In ear­lier tes­ti­mony, Kim­ber­ley res­i­dent Van Aswe­gen had stated that Nieuwen­huizen had con­vinced her and her hus­band, Martin, to in­vest R200 000 in her com­pany with prom­ises of a hand­some monthly re­turn on the in­vest­ment.

Van Aswe­gen said that the cou­ple had been led to be­lieve that the monthly re­turn of R10 000 would come from the in­ter­est in­curred on their ini­tial sum as Nieuwen­huizen would de­posit the pen­sion money from her ac­count into an in­vest­ment com­pany.

How­ever, ac­cord­ing to Van Aswe­gen, the cou­ple have to date not re­ceived any re­turn on the in­vest­ment nor has their ini­tial R200 000 been re­funded.

Nieuwen­huizen dis­puted this ver­sion of events and she said that this pay­ment had been for an in­vest­ment that the cou­ple were tak­ing over from her, as she re­quired funds to cover le­gal ex­penses after her trial be­gan in 2006 and con­tin­ued for five years.

“This R200 000 was my own money be­cause they had taken over the in­vest­ment. The in­ten­tion was never to in­vest this money. It was my money.”

She fur­ther de­nied de­fraud­ing the cou­ple, claim­ing to have gone above and be­yond what could have been ex­pected of her in or­der to as­sist them.

Port El­iz­a­beth res­i­dent Claasen had also pre­vi­ously tes­ti­fied that he had been in­tro­duced to Nieuwen­huizen in 2007, when fi­nan­cial trou­bles forced him to put his home on the mar­ket and the ac­cused of­fered to help trans­fer his bond from Ned­bank to SA Homeloans.

Claasen said that he had made three sep­a­rate pay­ments, one of AC­CUSED: Les­ley Nieuwen­huizen ap­peared in the Kim­ber­ley Mag­is­trate’s Court yes­ter­day and is fac­ing mul­ti­ple charges, in­clud­ing fraud and money laun­der­ing. R2 790 in De­cem­ber 2007 and two of R5 600 and R3 000 re­spec­tively in early 2008. He said that he was to get R105 000 paid into his bank ac­count.

Sub­se­quently, Claasen claimed that he had never re­ceived any pay­out nor re­fund from the ac­cused.

Nieuwen­huizen again de­nied any wrong­do­ing, say­ing that she had been mis­led by Claasen, who had not in­formed her that his bond re­pay­ments to Ned­bank had been in ar­rears for more than a year.

“Most banks re­quire that your bond must be up to date for at least three months, which wasn’t the case,” she said. “It was only when I went to his pay of­fice that I re­alised that the amount re­flected as pay­ment on his bond was ac­tu­ally pay­ment for his ve­hi­cle.

“The amount of R105 000 wasn’t in­tended to give the wrong im­pres­sion but was the amount given dur­ing pre-ap­proval.

“I did not de­fraud or mis­lead Claasen and even though it was his fault and we couldn’t as­sist, I still paid back my com­mis­sion.”

Cross-ex­am­i­na­tion of Nieuwen­huizen will con­tinue in the Kim­ber­ley Mag­is­trate’s Court this morn­ing.

Pic­ture: Danie van der Lith

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