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Kimberley - A former Harry Oppenheimer House (HOH) employee and Galeshewe resident, Michael van Rensburg, was on Thursday found guilty of theft and possession of 525 unpolished diamonds worth R1.4 million.
Van Rensburg earlier pleaded not guilty to the theft of 525 6/5 grainer unpolished diamonds belonging to the Diamond Trading Company (DTC). The collective weight of the diamonds that disappeared from a box at HOH in May 2010 was 741.09 carats.
While handing down judgment in the Northern Cape High Court, Judge Mpho Mamosebo said that she was satisfied that the State had proved its case beyond reasonable doubt and that no other person but the accused had stolen the diamonds in question.
During the trial the State called 21 witnesses, who clearly tracked the origin and movement of the diamonds through their testimonies. Mamosebo described all these witnesses as “honest and credible”.
Mamosebo noted that Van Rensburg’s testimony stood alone against the State’s overwhelming evidence against him and added that he was a very poor witness because he was evasive when pressed while under cross-examination and continuously changed his version on certain aspects.
“The accused pretended not to understand questions which had to be repeated several times. He was also not hesitant to shift the blame to his legal representative for failing to ask questions. I am satisfied that his evidence is clearly false,” Mamosebo stated.
It was discovered on May 12 2010 that box 3584, which contained the stolen diamonds, was not received by the intended sorting and valuation department stationed on the eighth floor. The empty box was found on the 12th floor on June 1 2010.
The box was originally sealed by a member of the semi-diamond automatic equipment (Sade) department on the fifth floor of the building on May 3 2010. The box was then moved to the technical sorting department on the 12th floor where the accused was stationed.
CCTV footage from within HOH revealed that Van Rensburg was shuffling and rearranging boxes from a trolley containing box 3584 during numerous visits and is also seen removing and crumbling a stock movement sheet. He is further seen disappearing into a cupboard for 35 seconds, which Mamosebo described as “a further step in concealing the diamonds”.
The footage further clearly showed Van Rensburg on May 3 and May 4 2010 and placed him in direct contact with the diamonds, as well as recording some “suspicious” movements, including walking in a zig-zag manner as to avoid being captured by the CCTV cameras.
An Information Technology manager further shed light on Van Rensburg’s software activities on the data system, concluding that Van Rensburg was pretending to unseal the box containing the diamonds, without executing any software to unseal the system.
A security supervisor confirmed that security did not conduct any searches of employees after 3pm and that employees were aware of this fact and that this afforded Van Rensburg ample opportunity to leave the premises with the stolen diamonds.
Sentencing will take place on November 28.
He is out on R5 000 bail.
He had been employed as a senior diamond sorter for 20 years at the time of the crime. During the trial, Mamosebo warned him that the contravention of the Diamond Act carried a minimum sentence of 15 years in prison.
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