Judgement reserved in diamond theft case

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Michael van Rensburg (right) was sentenced to eight years imprisonment for the theft of diamonds. Picture: Soraya Crowie

Kimberley - Judgment was reserved in the application for leave to appeal by Michael van Rensburg who was jailed for stealing diamonds.

Van Rensburg’s lawyer, Sakkie Nel, submitted the application, saying the court had under-emphasised certain aspects of evidence during the sentencing proceedings.

State advocate, Hannes Cloete, from the Directorate of Public Prosecutions, opposed the application.

He said Nel ignored the most important factor, namely the 15 years prescribed minimum sentence during the application and added that the eight-year sentence handed down by Judge Mamosebo was already “merciful”.

Mamosebo imposed a eight year sentence on the first count of theft of 525 unpolished grainers of diamonds and two years for the possession of 525 unpolished grainers of diamonds (second count.)

The two sentences are to run concurrently.

Mamosebe considered the fact that Van Rensburg was a first offender as the only factor counting in his favour, despite the fact that he, prior to this incident, held an unblemished record as an employee at the Diamond Trade Centre (DTC).

Van Rensburg had been employed by the DTC for 23 years prior to the incident in 2009.

Mamosebe said dishonesty on its own was considered aggravating, adding that “stealing from one’s employer is regarded as a serious act of misconduct”.

“While the DTC went through an economic downturn and was forced to retrench some employees, the accused retained his job. He stole from his employer, where there was a relationship of trust. The accused has not provided any help in recovering the lost diamonds and what is most concerting is that it might never be known what happened to the stolen diamonds.

“He was an experienced senior sorter and occupied a position of trust. He deliberately circumvented the existing security measures at the DTC, knowingly placing the DTC at risk, as it resulted in the company having to upgrade its security at considerable cost. The company had to stop production for one week in order to search for the missing diamonds and therefore lost production. The company incurred further loss due to the court attendance by some employees who appeared as State witnesses. The company’s integrity, as an internationally recognised body, was also adversely affected,” Mamosebo stated.

She further added that the activity in committing the offence was meticulously planned and the accused almost got away with his criminal conduct.

“The offence was not committed on the spur of the moment and not by need, but by greed. The theft was premeditated,” Mamosebo stated.

The magistrate concluded by saying that the accused had not shown any sign of remorse or understanding of the seriousness of the offences he had committed. This was reiterated by both the probation officer and the correctional supervision officer.

“Showing remorse is necessary because it demonstrates that the person appreciates his or her moral guilt, but even after conviction, the accused remained without remorse,” she said.

Before handing down the sentence, Mamosebo said that she had given great consideration to the sentencing option of correctional supervision, but based on the fact that the offences were very serious, the aggravating factors and interests of society far outweighed the personal circumstances of the accused.

“I came to the conclusion that a custodial sentence under these circumstances is the only suitable option but the question is whether there exists any substantial and compelling circumstances to justify a departure from the prescribed minimum sentences. I will take into consideration that he is a first offender, his health is not that good and that his incarceration will undoubtedly have a negative impact on his minor children,” she stated before handing down her sentence.

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