Former bank manager Engelborg Strauss was sentenced to eight years in prison by the Swakopmund Regional Court for stealing $1.16 million from Standard Bank and allegedly using it to pay for the services of a witch doctor.
Strauss was sentenced to 10 years, two of which were suspended for five years. Co-accused Amalia Akwaake’s trial for theft and money laundering was postponed to next month for legal aid.
Strauss pleaded guilty to theft but not guilty to money laundering, while Akwaake pleaded not guilty to both charges.
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Strauss admitted to stealing the money and leaving $800,000 at a bridge as instructed by the witch doctor, Mama Lala.
A few weeks later, Strauss paid $306,000 into Akwaake’s bank account, also under Mama Lala’s instructions.
Both women claimed they were scammed by Mama Lala.
During the judgment, the court acknowledged Strauss’s severe financial strain and honesty but emphasized that the true victim was the bank and none of the stolen money had been recovered.
The court also stressed that theft from financial institutions is increasing in Namibia and eroding the economy.
The bank put Strauss in a position of trust, and the theft was a betrayal of that trust.
Strauss asked for forgiveness from her employer and mercy from the court in sentencing.
Tanya Klazen defended Strauss, while Beata Mwahi represented the state.