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Cape Town - A senior bank official was jailed for eight years for fraud by the Belville Specialised Commercial Crime Court on Monday.
Fowzia Davids, 52, was found guilty of multiple counts of fraud involving R1 163 000, and of money laundering.
She had earned a good salary as a private banker at Standard Bank, and had to keep the bank's special clients informed of specialised products.
Magistrate Sabrina Sonnenberg said the court had to punish Davids, a first time offender, as an individual, and not as “just another accused person”.
However, the emphasis had to be on deterrence, and the sentence had to send out the message to the community that crime did not pay.
She said Davids had turned to gambling as an escape from the pressures of family members who had gone to her for advice due to her status at the bank, and her gambling habits had developed into an addiction.
Sonnenberg said that as a Muslim, Davids was aware that the Islamic faith prohibited gambling.
Because of this, she had worn ordinary clothing and not Muslim attire during her frequent visits to the GrandWest Casino in Cape Town.
Sonnenberg said Davids had targeted a client who was frequently abroad and did not regularly access his bank account.
The client's extended overseas trips had enabled her to cover her tracks as she channelled funds from his account, first into her husband's bank account and then to her own.
Sonnenberg agreed with prosecutor Zama Matayi that Davids's fraudulent scheme was well-planned and was carefully orchestrated between June 2008 and May 2009.
Sonnenberg said the bank had become aware of the fraud only after the client reported discrepancies.
Due to her seniority, Davids had been allowed to function without supervision and this had made it easier for her to conceal the ongoing embezzlement, the magistrate said.
She said the bank had had to compensate the client and its reputation had also been severely compromised.