Johannesburg - Former estate agent Wendy Machanik deeply regrets the actions that led to her conviction on 90 counts of theft, she wrote in a newspaper opinion piece on Sunday.
“I'd like to hereby state clearly and unambiguously that, yes, I am guilty of unlawfully accessing my company's trust fund to the value of R17 million - but not in the manner or for the reasons portrayed,” Machanik wrote in the Sunday Times.
Machanik was reportedly fined R1.5 million by the Johannesburg Specialised Commercial Crimes Court last month under a plea agreement in terms of which she admitting to 90 counts of theft totalling R27m, and two of failing to keep proper records of her company's trust fund.
Machanik wrote on Sunday that her business Wendy Machanik Properties was hit by the economic downturn in 2007 and that she borrowed from the trust in an attempt to save her employees' jobs.
“Looking back now I know what I should have done. I should have allowed the company to fold, declared bankruptcy, and walked away...
“(But) I felt it was my responsibility to my employees and their families they were supporting.”
Machanik said she paid back the money, but was later contacted by people who wanted to extort money from her in exchange for their silence.
“Like a scene out of a gangster movie, I was told to either pay over a sum of money or they would go to the authorities,” she wrote.
Machanik said she was now virtually penniless, had been stripped of her real estate license and was about to start a sentence of long-term house arrest.
“In the end, though, I take full responsibility for my actions and I hope this serves as a deterrent to those in business and government alike.”
The court reportedly fined Machanik R1 000 (or a year's imprisonment), suspended for three years, for failing to keep and audit accounting records. She was also reportedly sentenced to three years' correctional supervision and was fined R1.5m, R300 000 of which she would pay up front, and the rest in R25 000 monthly instalments. - Sapa