Disbarred Cape Town lawyer sentenced to five years’ imprisonment for fraud and forgery

A former lawyer has been sentenced and convicted for fraud and forgery. File image

A former lawyer has been sentenced and convicted for fraud and forgery. File image

Published Nov 1, 2022


A former Cape Town lawyer has been sentenced to five years’ direct imprisonment after she was convicted of fraud and forgery.

The defence team of former lawyer Ninette Annelize Crous had been fighting for a non-custodial sentence, which would see her not spend time behind bars.

But the State argued Crous should be inside prison.

Crous was disbarred as a lawyer.

The State proved the 36-year-old lawyer had practised at Schliemann Inc in Somerset West and in 2013 she received an instruction to assist Lize-Marie Te Roller buy an apartment from her father-in-law, Willem-Anne Te Roller, for R900 000, but for assorted reasons the transfer was not finalised by January 2014.

Willem-Anne Te Roller lost patience and Crous felt under pressure to finalise the transaction.

Eric Ntabazalila of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) said that in January 2014, it became clear there would be further delays regarding the transfer of the property. At the time, a client of Schliemann Inc, Pia Luzia Haflinger, had R900 000 in the law firm’s trust account for an unrelated property transaction. These funds were only due to be paid to Haflinger at the end of February 2014.

“On 16 January 2014, Crous’s illegal actions led to the transfer of Haflinger’s R900 000 from the law firm’s trust account into Te Roller’s bank account as payment for the sale of his property,” Ntabazalila explained.

Senior State prosecutor advocate Kelebogile Lesie-Shale told the court the money belonged to Haflinger and was not due and payable to Te Roller as proceeds of his property.

“Attorneys are required to ensure that monies deposited into trust accounts are used in accordance with the mandate given by the client,” Lesie-Shale argued.

“The accused represented to Schliemann that she obtained Haflinger’s written consent to transfer the R900 000 to Te Roller. The accused falsified the written consent as Haflinger did not consent to such a transfer nor had business with Te Roller.”

Ntabazalila added that on February 26 2014, Crous applied for R900 000 bridging finance on behalf of Te Roller, without his consent, although the purchaser had already been paid in full by the accused on January 16, 2014, even though the transaction had not yet been registered at the Deeds Office.

“Combined Capital Solutions (Pty) Ltd processed the application and approved only R720 000, which was paid into the law firm’s bank account,” Ntabazalila added.

“The accused was supposed to pay back Combined Capital Solutions (Pty) Ltd on the date of the registration of the property, but she did not. The company demanded payment from Te Roller, who denied having applied for bridging finance nor signed the application for bridging finance documents. He further denied giving Crous consent to apply for bridging finance on his behalf.”

The NPA added that an investigation later revealed that Te Roller had already been paid for his property and there was no need for him to apply for bridging finance on February 26, 2014, and that Crous fraudulently applied for the bridging finance and forged the signature of the seller on the application form.

During sentencing procedures, the defence argued for a non-custodial sentence, but Lesie-Shale stood her ground, stating that the accused would have to be behind bars.

“The State submits that legal practitioners must always maintain the highest standard of honesty and integrity and must not engage in conduct which is dishonest or that would diminish the public confidence in the administration of justice and bring the profession into disrepute,” Lesie-Shale argued.

“The accused in this matter occupied a position of trust towards her clients, which she gravely abused. The extent of the measures she took in committing these offences reflects on her moral blameworthiness.

“She knew fully well what the consequences of her conduct would be should she get caught but nonetheless reconciled herself to the said consequences.

“Though the State concedes that there are substantial and compelling circumstances for the court to deviate from the prescribed minimum sentence applicable to count one and two, the State however disagrees that a non-custodial sentence will be appropriate as submitted by the defence, considering the nature and seriousness of the offence, its prevalence, the interest of the society and the personal circumstances of the accused.”

The NPA added that the court concurred with her and sentenced Crous to five years’ direct imprisonment. The NPA said it accepted the sentence meted out by the court.