Once again, the South African justice system has left many shocked at a sentence that seems inappropriate for the severity of the crime. Former Fidentia boss J. Arthur Brown played a huge role in the mismanagement of millions of rands which clients had invested with his company. This Wednesday, the Mail and Guardian reported that Brown was ordered to pay a fine of only R 150 000 which does not compare with the millions that clients lost after the scandal broke out in 2007.
In courtroom 19 of the Western Cape High Court, the judge felt that a fine of R 75 000 for each case of fraud is a suitable punishment for the fraudster. Brown was also given an 18 month jail term but that was suspended for 4 years. Brown will only serve the 18 month jail term if he is found guilty of a similar crime of fraud.
The court burst into a roar of mixed emotions during sentencing. Pensioners and businesspeople who were directly affected by the criminal actions of J. Arthur Brown and the Fidentia management team could not believe that Judge Anton Veldhuizen would consider this sentence as an appropriate one for Brown.
J. Arthur Brown admitted that he did not conduct himself in an ethical manner when he provided information about Fidentia’s investment portfolios to clients and shareholders. He was found not guilty of other charges including corruption, theft and money-laundering.
In April, Brown’s initial admission of guilt document was rejected as it did not provide full details of the scheme and his involvement. He later submitted a revised document that was acceptable to the court.
In his revised admissions document, Brown said; “My actions were unlawful and constituted fraud by way of ‘dolus eventualis’.” This means that he committed fraud with ‘indirect intent’. Once Brown has paid the R 150 000 fine, he is not liable for any other fines to the state with regards to the two fraud charges he was convicted of.