By Zelda Venter
High Court Reporter
Crime boss Marietjie Prinsloo – the “Angel of Vanderbijl Park” – sat stone-faced in the Pretoria High Court dock on Thursday when she was sentenced to an effective 25 years imprisonment for her role in masterminding Krion, the country’s biggest money making scheme which took more than R1.5 billion from investors.
But the book has not yet totally been closed on the scandal which rocked the country and impoverished many investors nearly a decade ago. Although Prinsloo and her family were mostly given stiff sentences, they have not yet entered the prison gates as their bail was extended, pending appeal.
Her former husband Burt Prinsloo, her daughter Yolande Lemstra and Prinsloo’s niece Izabel Engelbrecht, were each sentenced to 12 years in jail for their role in the Krion pyramid scheme, while Yolande’s husband Gerrit Lemstra received a 15 year jail sentence.
Prinsloo’s son Cobus Pelser received a five-year jail sentence and Izabel’s husband Heindrich Engelbrecht was given a five-year jail term suspended for five years.
The convicts only spent about an hour and a half behind bars yesterday before their bail was extended.
While several of them faced possible life sentences for the racketeering charges they were convicted of – and the State was of the opinion that Judge Cynthia Pretorius was extremely lenient – the six appeared to be in shock at their sentences.
They immediately lodged applications for leave to appeal against their convictions and sentences and insisted their case go to the Appeal Court in Bloemfontein.
While Judge Pretorius did not seem convinced by the argument presented on behalf of Prinsloo that she did not realise she was running an unlawful scheme, she granted the six leave to appeal.
Her reasoning was that this was a unique case and she questioned whether the court did not perhaps err in duplicating some of the charges.
Although the State opposed bail for the six pending their appeal, their bail was extended.
This followed evidence from the investigating officer, Captain Willem Beukes, that since their arrest in 2002, they have diligently adhered to their bail conditions.
While the family did not show a lot of emotion as they heard their sentences, which ran into thousands of years, a tearful Yolande was hugged by her mother as she left the dock on hearing she will be able to return home, for now, to her four children. Her brother Cobus, known for his quick temper which sometimes flared in court, showed his middle finger to photographers as he entered the court.
None of the investors who lost their money in the scheme was at court, but family and friends of the convicts were there to lend support.
Judge Pretorius had some harsh words for Prinsloo, who was convicted of a staggering 122 126 charges – ranging from contravention of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act, to fraud, theft and contravening the Bank Act and the Tax Act. The judge commented that all the convicts had lost everything they owned due to their own conduct.
While they once lived in the lap of luxury, they could not even afford to pay for their defence during the trial. Prinsloo, the judge said, ran Krion from 1998 to June 2002 by way of a pattern of “banditry”.
She was warned several times by the authorities to stop, but she just carried on. “This conduct shows she had no respect for the truth or for any authority,” the judge said.
Prinsloo drew her family into her dealings, while she knew her conduct was unlawful, the judge said. “Some investors lost everything and they were down and out to such an extent they had to move in with their families or some, for months, had to eat with the dog… It is clear that many victims, including pensioners, lost all.”
The judge said the scheme had a devastating influence on the economy of Vanderbijl Park as schools and churches had to start feeding schemes and in many instances investors had to be treated for depression. “The impact of the collapse of the scheme did not only affect the investors, but the whole community who had to emotionally and financially assist the victims.”
The judge said Prinsloo’s excuse that the investors chose to become involved in the scheme, made it clear she preyed on the naivety and greed of many unsophisticated people.
“The fact that she knew in taking each investment that she could not pay the investor back, did not stop her. It in fact it fired her up to take more investments so she could keep her previous investors happy so that they could in turn refer new investors to her. “This was good for her ego as she was known as the Angel of Vanderbijl Park,” the judge said. - Pretoria News