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Kimberley - Local attorney Desmond Appie, 42, was sentenced to seven years imprisonment after he was found guilty of fraud and money laundering relating to property sales.

National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) regional spokesperson Phaladi Shuping said the attorney, who was practising as a conveyancer, was sentenced in the Kimberley Magistrate’s Court recently.

“He was found guilty of 10 counts of fraud and 10 counts of money laundering by the Kimberley Specialised Commercial Crimes Court.

“Magistrate Zola Mbalo sentenced Appie to 10 years’ imprisonment, of which three years were suspended. Appie will spend seven years in prison.”

He added that Appie misrepresented to the complainants or buyers of the houses that he was an agent appointed by the sellers of the houses.

“He claimed that he was authorised to oversee the transfer and registration of ownership of the said properties into the names of the buyers once they have deposited money into his account.

“Appie requested the buyers to sign a deed of sale, which he would present to the seller and the buyers would be entitled to take occupation of the said properties upon registration of ownership into the buyer’s name.

“He would vanish after taking the buyers’ money and would not transfer the house as some of the houses he purported to be selling were not for sale.”

Shuping stated that some of the houses were for sale, although the owners had not given him authority to sell those houses.

“The prices of the houses that he claimed to be selling ranged from R30 000 to R316 000. The total amount of money involved is estimated at R1 million. The offences were committed between March 2009 and January 2010.”

In aggravation of sentence, the State prosecutor, advocate Brian Mdlalose, advised the court to impose a term of direct imprisonment and urged that the sentence should send out a strong message that the courts would not tolerate white collar crimes committed by legal professionals.

He argued that the accused had betrayed the faith entrusted in him by the complainants.

“They trusted him with their last monies hoping that he will assist in providing them with shelter.

“The complainants had to endure a lot of difficulties because they were homeless despite paying their money to the accused. Some of the complainants took out loans and they had to honour repayments of those loans. Some took out their last savings but are still homeless,” Mdlalose said.