Shock at crime kingpin’s ‘lenient’ jail term
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CAPE TOWN - Two judges of the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, said the effective 12-year jail sentence meted out two years ago to one of the country’s most wanted criminals at the time, was shocking, disturbing and inappropriate.
The Pretoria Regional Court in 2019 sentenced Eugene Thapelo Lebona to a total of 93 years on an array of housebreaking and robbery charges.
However, the magistrate at the time said as Lebona had three children and his trial took five years to conclude, he should serve an effective 12 years of the 93 years he had received.
The magistrate also took into account that although some of the victims were made to lie on the floor, with a gun in their face while their homes were ransacked, “at least” Leboa did not harm them.
The prosecution was not happy with the sentence handed to the man they have dubbed “a crime kingpin” and the prosecution authority turned to the high court to appeal what they deemed to be a very lenient sentence.
Two judges on appeal said it was clear that the magistrate simply went through the ropes in sentencing Tapela, 40, at the time. It was also questioned why the magistrate chose to highlight Tapela’s personal circumstances, rather than acknowledging the fact that he was a crime kingpin.
The judges upped his total prison sentence from 93 years to 117 years, but this time ordered that he had to serve an effective 18 years.
Tapela was on the country’s list of most wanted criminals when he was arrested in 2014 at his luxury Midstream home in 2014.
An array of items, stolen during his crime spree, were found inside his home.
He also never explained his wealth to the court.
Although he was shot in the ear outside a house in Irene after one of his robberies, while his accomplice fled in the waiting car, Tapela maintained his innocence.
He claimed that he was walking past the house and that he was at the wrong place at the wrong time. The fact that his fingerprints were found inside the house did not concern him. He simply denied they were his.
The domestic worker who was present during the robbery at the Irene house was so traumatised that she resigned.
Yet, the high court judges said, not once did Tapela acknowledge his deeds, nor did he show an ounce of remorse.
His lawyer told the court that his sentence was not lenient at all, as he did receive a total of 93 years, although it was ordered that he only serve 12 years.
In a crime spree which began in 2003, Lebona traversed various parts of the country including Welkom, Orkney, Bloemfontein, Rustenburg, Pretoria and Johannesburg.
He was convicted of 16 charges, which included housebreaking, vehicle theft, robbery with aggravating circumstances and the possession of unlicensed firearms and ammunition.
The court was told that he liked the good things in life and stole items such as golf clubs and even a Harley Davidson motorbike during a house robbery.
Top detective Lieutenant Colonel Alet Pratt made headlines in 2014 when she was instrumental in arresting Tapela, who was branded a “terrifying house robber”.