File photo

Cape Town - An airport customs official who asked for a bribe was fined R50 000 or given the option of five years imprisonment by the Bellville Specialised Commercial Crime Court, in Cape Town, on Wednesday.

Nkethu Joseph Molibeli, 46, a customs inspector at the Cape Town International Airport, pleaded guilty before Magistrate Sabrina

Sonnenberg, to receiving a bribe of R1500 for fast-tracking the release of imported T-shirts.

At the request of his lawyer, Peter Mihalik, R20 000 of the fine was conditionally suspended for five years, leaving Molibeli with a fine of R30,000.

He was ordered to pay R5 000 immediately, and allowed to pay the balance in monthly instalments of R5 000.

The bribe concerned a consignment ordered by importer Glyniss Arendse which arrived in South Africa from Bangkok in February last year. How the incident came to light was not disclosed during the proceedings.

Sonnenberg said the South African penal system did not recognise the principle of an eye for an eye, but corruption was endemic and had to be punished appropriately.

She said the incident had happened on the spur of the moment, as opposed to having been systematically planned, and was because of greed.

Sonnenberg said Molibeli's job had required a high level of honesty,

“You were not forced to do this, nor was the bribe even offered to you. You requested it, and you are now paying the price,” she said.

She agreed with prosecutor Xolile Jonas that Molibeli had breached a position of trust. - Sapa