Seven of the nine people who were found guilty of either racketeering or theft charges of thousands of litres of fuel products have given mitigating evidence without a legal counsel in the Free State High Court.
This seven, six men and a woman, were unable to secure legal representation after their previous lawyer withdrew from the case on Monday just before the sentencing proceedings started, after not receiving further instructions from his clients.
Judge Jake Moloi wasted no time on Tuesday to hear mitigating evidence from the men and woman.
Nazier Tiry, who was seen as the brain behind the racketeering activities, told the court he was sad that he could not get legal representation before the sentencing proceedings.
He submitted he does not agree with the court’s convictions and the evidence the State presented in court. He submitted, while in tears, he never committed an offence as he is an honest person and that he will not commit a crime in future. On a question by the judge, Tiry replied he will struggle to get R100 000 together for a possible fine but will be able to pay it.
The woman, Patricia Sangweni, also represented herself in arguing in mitigation of her sentencing and pleaded to the court for leniency in deciding on her punishment.
She asked the court for a sentence outside of prison with a “reasonable” fine as an option.
The legal counsel for two of the truck drivers, who were also found guilty, submitted that fines of R15 000 and R40 000 would be an appropriate punishment for them. The rest of the men, who represented themselves in mitigation of their sentences, also asked the court to be merciful in punishment and suggested suspended sentences for themselves.
The State argued in aggravation of sentences that the court should consider that the crimes were well-planned and well-performed over a long period. It was also submitted that the impact of the offences were huge for those who lost income as a result of the thefts.
The State further submitted that the nine people before the court did not show any remorse during the trial that lasted more than 80 days. Judge Moloi postponed the matter to 13 October for sentencing. – firstname.lastname@example.org
André Grobler – Bloemfontein Courant