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Durban - A former bookkeeper has pleaded guilty to stealing just over R3 million from a Durban construction company over three years.

Irene Vandayar, 43, stood in the dock in the Durban Regional Court on Thursday and admitted her guilt, saying she was “caught in a downward spiral” because of her financial difficulties.

The mother of two’s theft trial had been due to begin, but state prosecutor Yuben Archary told the court that Vandayar intended pleading guilty.

Her written plea was read out to the court by her attorney, Mervin Maistry.

According to her plea, Vandayar worked as a bookkeeper for Jacoby and Nicholson Construction, based in Red Hill, Durban, from 1992 to 2012.

Her responsibilities included creditors, debtors, monthly reports to the SA Revenue Service, the Unemployment Fund and the payroll.

“In 2001, Standard Bank had installed the latest edition of their electronic payment software on the Jacoby and Nichol Construction computers and I, among others, received training on its operation.”

She said she was responsible for loading creditors’ and beneficiaries’ details on to the system and the payment amounts due to them.

However, she could not make the payments - that was done by her employers, who had full access to the system through a password.

One day, while uploading beneficiaries, she realised she had full access and could make payments herself.

She was going through financial difficulties at the time and created a fictitious beneficiary with her personal details and transferred a small amount of money, which went undetected by her employers.

From 2009 to 2012, she transferred about R3.1 million into her now ex-husband Vino Vandayar’s business and personal accounts.

She controlled both accounts and transferred the money into her personal bank account. She admitted to creating various fictitious accounts to make payments for services provided or purchases.

According to media reports, she used the funds to pay off the mortgage bond on her home, went on five overseas trips, injected money into her now ex-husband’s business and paid household bills.

However, she made no mention of this in her plea.

Vandayar and her ex-husband were arrested in February last year and released on R30 000 bail each. The charges against her ex-husband have since been withdrawn.

According to her plea, her ex-husband did not realise or know that she had transferred funds into his business and personal accounts.

“I knew what I was doing… was both unlawful and intentional; however, I was incapable of stopping my illegal conduct or restraining my behaviour as I was caught in a downward spiral because of my financial difficulties,” her plea read.

She said in October 2012, she went away on a “personal transformation” during which she understood the error of her ways and decided to “come clean about my conduct”.

When she returned, her employers had already discovered her illegal conduct and confronted her.

The company had hired private investigator Ian Ault to track the funds siphoned from its account.

She said she confessed to her employers and Ault and immediately transferred to the company whatever funds were held in her personal account - R100 000.

She said her employer instituted insolvency proceedings against her and her ex-husband and they had since surrendered all their personal belongings including a R300 000 Old Mutual Policy, their Toyota Hilux and Toyota Verso, immovable property valued at R1.35m and movable assets.

Magistrate Fariedha Mohamed extended her bail and adjourned the matter until September for the Correctional Services’ and probation officer’s reports required for sentencing.

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Daily News