The former driver of the Free State’s previous premier, Ace Magashule, is set to launch a bid to overturn his conviction and sentencing of 15 years imprisonment for the theft of the Pierneef painting valued at R8 million.
OFM News reports that Ricardo Mettler’s new legal counsel, Advocate Hannes Peyper, tells OFM News he has received instructions from Mettler to launch a court bid against his sentencing in the High Court in Bloemfontein.
He says they only have a 14-day period to file an appeal and they are looking at doing so around next week. Peyper refused to comment on whether Judge Soma Naidoo, in her sentencing, might have been harsh and went overboard. He says he can’t react to the judgment yet because he still needs to study the records and finalise the appeal.
Mettler was found guilty in 2020 on four counts of theft, fraud, money laundering and perjury. Judge Naidoo handed down a 15-year prison sentence for theft, 15 years for money laundering, 15 years for fraud and 12 years for perjury. Counts 2 and 4 are set to run concurrently.
It’s been said that he stole the Pierneef painting with the intention of selling it to a Bloemfontein businessman – Wei-Lin Hsu – or use it as a guarantee for a loan of more than R2 million. Following Hsu’s testimony in court, he was exempted from prosecution.
In 2020, the court heard how Mettler approached Hsu on the day of Premier Sisi Ntombela’s inauguration on 28 March 2018 and asked for financial assistance. Mettler is said to have delivered the painting to the offices of Hsu a day later following an agreement between the two about a loan guarantee.
Mettler’s initial statement read that he was gifted this valuable art piece by Magashule during the move to his new position of ANC Secretary-General (SG).
Contrary to the claims, Magashule testified in court and told the judge when he was vacating the Premier’s office, he gave various personal items to different people, including Mettler. He also testified that he did not even know if “Pierneef” was a painting or an actual person.
The state has called a total of 14 witnesses, including his former PA Nomalanga Moroadi Selina Cholota.
The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) in the Free State says the 15-year jail term imposed on Mettler will serve as a deterrent to many others. The NPA spokesperson, Phaladi Shuping, says Mettler’s sentence shows that the law will not allow people in public office to use state resources for their own benefit.