MASERU — An accountant with the Public Eye newspaper who was last week convicted of forging the company’s cheques to buy a television set told the court he committed the crime because the company was paying him “a slave wage”.
Thabiso Naha, 28, had been in the paper’s employ for barely six months when he forged a company cheque worth M7 900.
On January 10 he used the cheque to buy a TV worth M2 500 at Munshi Furnishers and requested that he be paid the remaining value in cash, the court heard.
The court also heard that Naha had used a fake identity document which carried the name Neo Mokhethi but had his real photograph on it.
According to the prosecution, shop owner Munshi Hanif had told Naha (whom he knew as Mokhethi at that time) that he should come the following day (January 11) to collect the change.
But Naha never got to collect his loot because his crime was discovered the next morning after he tried to use a woman stranger he had met on the streets to collect the money on his behalf.
Prosecutor ´Mamongonyo Baasii said Hanif told the police that he had observed Naha negotiating with the woman outside his shop.
And when the woman approached him for the money he questioned her and she confessed that she had been sent by Naha.
Baasii told the court that Public Eye owner Bethuel Thai had told the police and his bank FNB that he had not signed that cheque.
Baasii said the signature on the cheque looked different from the library signature card that the bank had.
“Thai had told the branch administrator that he had signed cheques below M7 000 and had not reached number 1 997 therefore the cheque must have been stolen,” Baasii told the court.
She said Thai had identified the photo on the fake ID as that of Naha.
During mitigation Naha pleaded for leniency saying he stole the cheque because his salary was too little for him to survive.
“The reasons why I stole the cheque is because I work as a volunteer and was promised to be hired in January but the promise was not forthcoming,” said Naha who was clad in blue jeans and an orange golf T-shirt over which he had a brown jacket.
“I’m given a pittance as I work in Lesotho and Bloemfontein,” he said.
“I have to pay for rent in both countries. I want to do a traditional ceremony for my son who is having complications. My wife works in the textile industry,” he said.
Naha said he is also looking after his niece as her mother had died.
He said his father is going to be a pensioner soon.
Magistrate Motlalekhotso Mabula however slapped Naha with a 15-month jail term.
He was also given an option to pay a M1 500 fine to avoid doing time.
Mabula said the court had considered that Naha’s son was still young and he had a traditional ritual to carry out.
He however said Naha had used the money to buy a TV set instead of essential things needed for his family’s upkeep.
The plasma television has since been returned to its owner.
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