Magistrate Amrith Chabilall told the court that Francois Hendrik du Plessis, 43, had shown “no remorse whatsoever” and had instead tried to shift the blame onto a business partner who had committed suicide.
With Du Plessis in the dock was single mother Elmarie von Willigh, 44, who was found guilty as an accomplice and given a five-year suspended jail sentence. She was also sentenced to three years’ house arrest.
Du Plessis was found guilty on 41 counts of theft, 35 of fraud, six of money-laundering and one of forgery.
Von Willigh was found guilty on 41 counts of theft, 22 of fraud, six of money-laundering and one involving the uttering (presentation) of a forged document.
Chabilall warned Von Willigh that she was also banned from consuming liquor during her house arrest. Chabilall said Du Plessis had elicited the life savings of elderly professional people who had worked hard all their lives.
The investments were placed in a savings account to which Von Willigh had had access, and she had manipulated the account for the benefit of Du Plessis and herself.
Chabilall said: “The victims were professional people: doctors, psychiatrists, pharmacists and architects. The amounts invested with Du Plessis were inordinately large.”
He said Du Plessis and Von Willigh were found not guilty on eight counts relating to the embezzlement of funds in excess of R1m. The only reason for their acquittal on these counts was that the victims had declined on religious grounds to testify.
Chabilall added: “All the victims were elderly, who relied on his advice. They placed their financial future in his hands, and one can only wonder at the gullibility of intelligent people to approach Du Plessis to invest their money.”