Cape Town – Pension fund fraudster J Arthur Brown was reportedly one of around 19 000 low-risk prison inmates set to be released as part of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Special Covid-19 parole dispensation in May last year.
It never materialised. Today, however, former Fidentia boss Brown, who was serving a 15-year jail term at the Voorberg Prison in Porterville, was finally released on parole under a cloak of secrecy at about 8am, Netwerk24 reported, which showed photos of him leaving the prison.
The 51-year-old Brown, who was reportedly a model prisoner and served as chairperson of the rugby club, is expected to live with his second wife, Annelize, in Bloubergstrand. His first wife, Susan, flew to Australia on April 25, 2008 with their two sons after a warrant for her arrest was also issued on April 3.
Brown had initially walked out of the Western Cape High Court with a suspended jail term and a fine of R150 000 in May 2013, on condition he not be convicted of fraud for four years. The Supreme Court of Appeal said in December 2014 the judge who heard the original case was “deserving of censure”.
The Department of Correctional Services said in a statement: “Offender Joseph Arthur Brown has been placed on parole, effectively from 21 October 2021. This decision was taken by the Correctional Supervision and Parole Board, having assessed Brown’s profile and other material submitted for the purposes of parole consideration.
“Classified as a first-time offender with a positive support system, Brown’s parole placement is in line with Section 73 of the Correctional Services Act. The act determines the minimum period of sentence that must be served before consideration may be given for possible parole placement.”
The minimum detention period for Brown ended on August 2, 2019, but he could not be placed on parole at the time as there was a need for further profiling.
“Brown takes responsibility for the offences he committed and is remorseful,” said the department.
“Having completed all the identified programmes as per his correctional sentence plan, Brown was assessed and reports by specialists recommended parole placement.”
The department said Brown will for the remainder of the sentence be expected to comply with a specific set of conditions and will be subjected to supervision until his sentence expires on December 2, 2028.
“Critical to highlight, parole forms part of the total rehabilitation programme in correcting offending behaviour and may include continuation of programmes aimed at reintegration whilst in the system of community corrections,” said the department.
Brown’s firm had presided over more than R1 billion that allegedly went missing from a trust – there were 54 000 trusts involved altogether in the Fidentia scandal – which paid money, among others, to the widows and orphans of mineworkers. Fidentia’s financial director and broker were sentenced to seven-year jail terms after striking a plea bargain. They were released after less than three years.
Brown, who had originally faced 192 charges, had admitted guilt on two major counts in his embezzlement trial related to the Transport Education and Training Authority (Teta), amounting to nearly R200 million, and Matco (Mantadia Asset Trust Company), amounting to R93 million, of which R15 million had been returned.
Brown admitted that these amounts were invested from time to time in asset classes different to those specified in the investment mandate.
During the six-year trial, which could not prove he had stolen from widows and orphans, a “cash-strapped’’ Brown had lived in three houses with a combined value of R26.9 million, with him saying this was thanks to the ’’financial support of my family and individuals who believed in my plight’’.
The Voorberg Medium B Centre, 147km north-east of Cape Town, is situated more or less 10km outside Porterville. Catering for male offenders, the centre is managed on the principle of unit management and divided into four units for between 360 to 400 offenders.