German couple convicted of fraud and murder of EC farmer
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DURBAN - Two German nationals, Jens Leunberg (42), and Kristina Adler (44), have been sentenced to 25 and 10 years imprisonment, respectively, for fraud and the murder of fellow German national, Claus Schroeder.
Port Elizabeth High Court’s Judge Thembekile Malusi found the couple guilty of the crimes committed in March 2021.
The two were arrested in July 2011 and the trial commenced in March 2015.
Adler was absent in court after she was admitted in hospital due to the deterioration of her mental state.
Judge Malusi said that there were substantial and compelling circumstances in this case for the court to part from the minimum sentence provisions.
“Factors which were considered in Adler’s case were her ill-health, the welfare of her two young children who were separated from their parents at the age of three and five years and the extended period she had been awaiting trial. Leunberg, on the other hand, had been in custody for ten years awaiting trial,” Malusi said.
Leunberg and Adler first visited South Africa in May 2007 for holidays. In 2008 they then visited the country on business and spousal visas, which were in actual fact fraudulent.
Adler and Leunberg, who have two children together, met a married couple, Claus and Tanja Schroeder, in Jeffreys Bay in 2007.
NPA spokesperson in the Eastern Cape, Anelisa Ngcakani, said Adler and Leunberg then indicated to the Schroeders that they were interested in purchasing a farm in the Jeffreys Bay area. The Schroeders then saw this as an opportunity to sell their farm, Owvanuk in Thornhill, in the district of Hankey.
On 18 October 2007, a memorandum of an agreement for purchase and sale was drawn up between Thornhill Ubuntu Tourism Activities CC, the purchaser, represented by Adler, and DTTC Investments CC, the seller, represented by Tanja, for the sale of the farm for R8,5 million.
The purchaser undertook to furnish the seller with proof that they had obtained a loan by 15 November 2007. The purchaser further undertook to pay the seller R13 000 per month as occupational rent for the farm from 15 January 2008 until the farm had been transferred into the name of the purchasers.
Adler furnished Tanja with a document from ING Bank, Germany, dated 13 November 2007 which purported to be an approved bank guarantee for the amount of R8,5 million for the purchase of the farm, a document which was fraudulent as the purchaser never obtained a loan of R8.5 milion from any bank. Induced by the misrepresentations, the Schroeders granted Leunberg and Adler occupation of Owvanuk farm on 15 January 2008.
On 11 April 2008, Leunberg approached the Department of Home Affairs to apply for a business permit for Thornhill Ubuntu Tourism Activities CC. The department required a certificate from a chartered accountant that stated that at least R2.5 million in cash and a capital contribution of at least R500 000, originating from abroad was available to be invested as part of the book value of the business. Adler and Leunberg submitted a fraudulent Deutsche Bank online printout held in the name of Adler which indicated that on 5 May 2008 her account had an amount of Euro 347 252.
On 14 August 2009, Claus Schroeder arrived at Owvanuk farm as he was concerned that over a year had passed since the signed sale agreement between the two couples yet the R8.5 million had not been transferred. Leunberg instead, under the false pretence that his vehicle had been stuck in the kloof lured him to the kloof where he killed him. Claus Schroeder's body was never found, however, witnesses stated that they saw Leunberg emerge from the bushes with blood on his clothes.
The court congratulated the prosecutor, Advocate Marius Stander, and the Hawks investigator, Warrant Officer Daniel Siebert, for embarking on an extraordinary effort to prosecute and investigate the case against formidable odds as they both at some point faced serious health challenges during the 10-year life span of the case.
“Indeed, each of your efforts in this trial has been a credit to your profession and ensured that justice is served,” said Judge Malusi.
Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions, Advocate Indra Goberdan, welcomed the sentence.
"The sentence was fair, given the fact that Jens Leunberg spent 10 years in custody awaiting trial . The sentence sends a strong message to criminals. Adv Stander should be applauded for the huge effort he put in to achieve this finalisation,” she said.