Evidence from recent court rulings is proof that in South Africa, fraud holds greater weight in punitive action than murder.
This is according to Kyle Condon from D'K Management Consultants, an investigations and risk consultancy provider.
Based on fraud cases that have recently been dealt with in court — such as that of Victor Kwenda from Merseta — it is clear that the judiciary, in South Africa, is dead-set on instilling severe punishment for white-collar crimes.
What the statistics say about fraud and murder in SA
While violent contact crimes, like murder, are rampant in South Africa, cases of fraud have shown a marked increase in 2018/19.
According to the recently released crime statistics, murder went up by 3.4%, while commercial crimes shot through the roof by 14.4%, only second to sexual offences.
Condon warned that businesses are not safe due to the fact that it is hard to prepare security measures for criminals who work among us.
“Fraud is a huge problem in South Africa and the sad thing is that it is most often committed by the company's own employees. These are people you have put your trust into. Unfortunately, this trust often leads to the exact blind spot that fraudsters need to do their work,” he said.
Why you're likely to get more jail time for commercial crimes
The judiciary has noticed this growing trend of fraud cases and to send a clear message to perpetrators, judges have ramped up the scale of sentences they award to criminals.
For instance, Kwenda was convicted of defrauding Merseta of R4.9-million. The company operates in the education and training sector, providing beneficiaries with apprenticeship opportunities.
The implications of his crime affected many disadvantaged youths and this, according to Condon, was the motivation behind the Supreme Court of Appeal's decision to uphold the 20-year jail sentence Kwenda was handed.
People convicted of fraud can — depending on the severity of the crime and its implications — can get a minimum of 15 years imprisonment in South Africa.
“You can't just trust that nobody is going to steal from you. If you do not have proper strategies in place to protect you from these fraudulent activities, then you stand a high risk of falling victim to fraud.
"It is an epidemic in South Africa, after all. It is encouraging to see that a stricter sentencing policy is being put into place. Criminals need to know that they will not be allowed to get away with their crimes,” Condon said.