Brown’s sentence is fair, says judge

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iol news pic J Arthur Brown Fidentia sentencing Sapa Former Fidentia boss J Arthur Brown walked out the Western Cape High Court a free man, but said he would not rest until his investors had their money back. Picture: Nardus Engelbrecht, Sapa

Cape Town - Former Fidentia boss J Arthur Brown was fined R150 000 and given a suspended prison sentence on Wednesday for two fraud convictions.

Handing down sentence, Western Cape High Court Judge Anton Veldhuizen said a R75 000 fine applied for each fraud count.

Brown was also given 18 months in jail for each count, suspended for four years on condition he not be convicted for fraud again.

Brown, 43, looked tired as police officers shackled his wrists and led him out of courtroom 19 to the holding cells, where he would stay until his lawyer had organised for the fine to be paid.

Pensioners, business people, and other members of the public in the packed courtroom had mixed expressions of disbelief and relief when sentence was handed down.

Brown was recently convicted after he admitted to misrepresentations he made regarding investments entrusted to him.

The State originally laid 192 charges against him.

Veldhuizen said it was appropriate to set the record straight by saying Brown was not convicted of having stolen millions from pensioners and Fidentia, nor defrauding either party.

He said the fraud which Brown was convicted of was “an extremely diluted version of fraud which the indictment alleges”.

Brown's convictions were on the basis of potential prejudice he caused to investments and no monetary value was attached to these.

The section of law stating a minimum sentence of 15 years for fraud did thus not apply, as it was only for fraud involving amounts of more than R500 000.

“I have the unfettered discretion to pass a sentence which, in all circumstances, is just and fair,” Veldhuizen said.

“I cannot sentence you for crimes which you have not been convicted (of). That would be wrong.”

The judge criticised the State's handling of the case, asking why the chief financial officer of the Financial Services Board (FSB), Dawood Seedat, was only called to testify after Brown was convicted.

Seedat had testified in aggravation of Brown's sentence.

He said they had launched the investigation into Fidentia in 2006 and found there was a shortfall of R406 million.

Veldhuizen said if the FSB's findings were factually correct, it was “astounding” that the State had only brought certain charges against Brown and accepted his plea of guilty on two counts.

The judge acknowledged the “trauma and personal suffering” Brown had been through while awaiting trial over the past six years. - Sapa



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