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Financial hope turns into despair

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51-year-old woman stands accused of defrauding an elderly couple out of nearly a quarter million rand of their pension money

ACCUSED: Lesley Nieuwenhuizen

EMPTY promises of financial security have resulted in criminal charges against a Kimberley resident who is accused of defrauding an elderly couple out of nearly a quarter million rand of their pension money.

Lesley Nieuwenhuizen is facing multiple charges, including fraud and money laundering, and will remain in custody until her trial continues in mid-October.

The 51-year-old accused allegedly enticed Martin and Brenda van Aswegen to hand over R200 000 of their pension money, assuring them that the transaction would ensure that their financial woes would be a thing of the past.

During yesterday’s proceedings, Brenda van Aswegen, a Kimberley resident, testified that Nieuwenhuizen had convinced her and her husband, the complainant in the case, to invest R200 000 in her company with promises of a good return.

The witness said that Nieuwenhuizen visited their daughter in 2009 when she overheard the couple discussing how to invest Martin’s pension, which had been paid out a few months earlier.

“She (Nieuwenhuizen) came to visit my daughter while we were talking about the money that we were looking to invest,” Van Aswegen told the court.

“She told us that she had a business that handles investments and we told her that we were interested in investing our money with her company.

“We decided to invest R200 000, which we paid into her account over several transactions. She told us that we would be able to live off the interest of R10 000 per month.

“As I understood the agreement, once we had paid the full amount, we would have had no more financial problems.”

The witness stated that they had been lead to believe that the monthly payout would come from the interest earned on their initial investment as Nieuwenhuizen would deposit the pension money into an investment company from her account.

However, according to Van Aswegen, to date, the couple have not received any return on the investment nor had their initial R200 000 been refunded.

“When we did not get our first R10 000, as agreed, I repeatedly called and sent messages to Nieuwenhuizen. I begged and pleaded with her. On one occasion, she said she would bring the money and we just needed to be patient. However, to date, we have still not received anything.”

She added that the incident had taken a major toll on both the couple and their family members, who were being forced to assist them financially.

Several statement’s were also entered into evidence yesterday, including reports from the Financial Services Board and Jacobus Smit of the National Prosecuting Authority’s Asset Forfeiture Unit.

Shortly before court adjourned yesterday afternoon, Smit testified with regards to the fourth charge against the accused, that of money laundering.

He explained that the fact that the name, ML van Aswegen, appeared on bank statements did not necessarily indicate that he had received any payments from the accounts of the accused.

“There is an ATM transaction of R5 000 to Van Aswegen, dated July 7 2009,” he said. “In this instance it should be a debit against the account.

“If you look at the bottom of the bank statement, it states that there is a debit amount with a reference to ML van Aswegen. This indicates that there was an ATM payment made, but that it (ML van Aswegen) is only a reference.

“The referral is Van Aswegen but the money has not necessarily been paid to Van Aswegen. It is the account number that matters and not the name.

“The bank itself can confirm the exact details because for every debit there must be a credit.”

Smit said that this constituted money laundering because the funds has been received for a specific cause and was transferred to various accounts to make it appear like legitimate income.

He added that some of the money had been drawn over the counter at the Flamingo Casino and that there was no record of a R200 000 investment.

In the analysis there is no indication of any investments made out of the accused’s account between June 9 and August 4 2009.

The trial will continue in mid-October.