The mysterious disappearance of hundreds of gold Kruger coins valued at R7.2 million from a bank vault resulted in a banking officer being convicted of theft and sentenced to eight years imprisonment, but it appeared that the elderly owner of the coins did not know how many he owned.
Kevin Kaschula was earlier pinpointed as the culprit and convicted and sentenced by the lower court. He, however, managed to clear his name on appeal to the Makhanda High Court in the Eastern Cape.
While there was no evidence that he was actually the thief, the magistrate concluded that it could only have been him.
But Acting Judge AJ Ellis said it was mere speculation, as the elderly owner was not sure how many coins he had.
It was estimated that about 480 Kruger coins went missing from the 1990s until recently, when the “theft” was discovered.
The complainant, Elvin Victor Krull was 82-years-old at the time of the trial.
He testified that around 1994 he decided to invest in gold Kruger coins and bought about 300-odd Kruger coins. He never counted his Kruger coins and the 300 odd coins were acquired over a period.
He decided that there were too many coins to keep in his office strongroom and decided to rent a safety deposit box in the vault at Nedbank in East London.
He rented safety deposit box 9B from the bank in March 1994 and instructed the bank to buy more coins on his behalf.
A year later he had 400 gold coins. At the time, Kaschula was employed by the bank in the forex department.
Krull did not collect the coins every month to place in his safety deposit box and he let the coins accumulate. He used to go to the Nedbank vault to add to his collection on random occasions.
He used a steel first aid box with handles on either side to store the coins in the vault.
He visited box 9B at the bank five or six times, the last time being about 20 years ago.
He did not keep stock of the Kruger coins held in the safety deposit box and to his mind the total number in box 9B was over 700.
Krull testified that the last time he recalled handling the first aid box was in 1995/96 when he went there to add a few more coins.
The next time that he opened box 9B was in 2015, after his 80th birthday, when he wanted to show his children how many Krugerrands he had accumulated over the years and where he kept them.
As Krull had lost the key over the years, he took a locksmith along to open the vault.
The locksmith opened box 9B on his instructions and Krull sr discovered his first aid box was missing from inside the locker and had been replaced with a smaller, brown petty cash box. The petty cash box was filled to the top with Kruger coins.
He found 320 coins in the petty cash box.
According to him, there were 300 to 400 coins missing. There was also a handwritten note, dated and signed by his late wife, in the petty cash box, reflecting “current contents 320 Kruger rands” dated July 17, 1995.
The matter was investigated and Kaschula later told Krull’s son that from previous emails, he established that there was a second safety deposit box, box number 26 in his (Kaschula’s) name, that was used to hold coins on behalf of Krull sr, pending the handover.
On May 27, 2015 the Krulls went back to the vault and safety deposit 26 was opened to reveal a further 80 Kruger coins in their original packaging.
Kaschula handed the coins over and said that accounted for all Krull sr’s coins purchased by the bank.
Krull sr could not recall whether Kaschula ever informed him that he opened a second safety deposit box for purposes of holding coins pending the handover, in his name.
Kaschula, meanwhile, testified that he did not steal the 480 coins.
He was employed from 1994 by Nedbank and in that same year Nedbank started purchasing Krugerrands on behalf of Krull sr.
He was involved in the purchases of the coins in his capacity as supervisor in foreign exchange and he was initially to purchase coins on an ad hoc basis for Krull sr.
The Kruger coins were purchased in batches of 20s and 40s and he accounted to Krull sr in writing regarding such purchases.
The total number of Kruger coins purchased on behalf of Krull sr was 400; he said Krull sr called him in 2015 and informed him about the discovery of the missing Kruger coins.
Kaschula then found the other 80 coins in safety box no 26 – which he handed to Krull.
He said Krull sr then had all the coins, because the 320 in Krull sr’s box 9B plus the 80 from box 26 equalled the 400 Kruger coins which the bank had recorded to have purchased on behalf of Krull sr.
Krull, however, was sure he had bought more coins over the years, although he could not remember how many.
The judge remarked that it remained unexplained why no records existed of access to safety deposit box 9B and safety deposit box 26, but said it was not proved that Kaschula was the one with long fingers.
The case of the missing coins will remain a mystery, as it is not sure how many there were in the first place and thus how many are not accounted for.