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Boksburg multi-million fraudster claims abusive husband forced her to do it

It was found Steenkamp once spent R5m in one night on gambling while overseas.

The sentencing proceedings of a Boksburg woman recently convicted of stealing R537m from her former employer, began in a sitting of the Johannesburg Commercial Crimes Court at the Palm Ridge Magistrate’s Court on August 14. In defrauding the company of this amount, Hildegard Steenkamp (50), of Cinderella, also defrauded SARS to the tune of R311m.

She stole the money over a 13-year period from Medtronic (Pty) Ltd, where she was employed as an accountant.

Steenkamp was also found to have splurged millions on gambling, a lavish lifestyle, overseas holidays and funding her late husband’s unprofitable business ventures.

She recently pleaded guilty and was found guilty on 336 charges (transactions) related to the embezzlement of the R537m and is currently out on bail.

On the afternoon of August 14, proceedings were abruptly adjourned and postponed to August 16 after she told the court that she was not feeling well and felt unfit to continue with arguments in mitigation of sentencing.

The hearing resumed today (August 16) and Steenkamp is expected to take the stand.

In her testimony in mitigation of her sentence on August 14, Steenkamp blamed her illegal activities on her late husband, Mathys Steenkamp, who she portrayed as an abusive husband who forced her to commit the thefts.

She told the court that her late husband had at some point threatened to hurt her and their children when she told him she wanted to stop stealing from her employer.

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The State had before Steenkamp’s testimony called a forensic investigator, Graeme Dawes, to testify in aggravation of sentence.

Dawes was part of the Deloitte team appointed in 2017 to carry out the forensic investigation into the fraud on behalf of Medtronic.

According to Dawes’s testimony, Steenkamp started stealing in December 2004, six months after she was permanently employed as a junior accountant at the company.

The theft continued until 2016 when it was discovered.

Dawes testified that their investigations revealed that sometimes the accused would steal in excess of R20 million a month.

The company launched its internal investigation and a case was subsequently opened and it was further investigated by the Hawks Serious Commercial Crime Investigation.

How did she do it?

Dawes told the court that it was a “complex matter” but would try to explain it in the simplest term.

“Effectively what happened is the accused was involved in the processing of all of the VAT claims on behalf of the company. The company had two entities that would import large volumes of medical equipment into South Africa and then sell it to local companies.

“Between the two, it created an opportunity for the company to claim back VAT on the imports. That was the simplest form they were able to reclaim money they had paid to SARS.

“Effectively, what happened here was, the accused managed to set herself up as a beneficiary on the bank account of Medtronic – paying herself monies that were purported to be either for customs clearing agents or for SARS itself.

“So, you had R537m that made its way to the bank account of the accused and her deceased husband,” Dawes told the court.

He explained Steenkamp was then able to claim as part of the claiming process and placed her bank accounts within those processes. As a result, SARS refunded a large portion of money to the two accounts in question.

The court heard the total value of money claimed from SARS and paid is in the region of R311m, which Medtronic had to repay to SARS because the revenue service deemed the accused as an agent of the company and demanded the money to be paid back.

“That being said, there was also R107m that was claimed from SARS but was questioned by SARS and not paid. There was another R111m that was never claimed from SARS,” Dawes testified.

“Medtronic was required to settle that amount Steenkamp defrauded SARS – but that didn’t stop there as SARS levied interest on that amount; about R200m.

“On top of that was the cost of the investigation – which was conducted across multiple countries – which was in the region of R30m.”

Dawes told the court that Medtronic is also in a legal dispute with SARS over the VAT Steenkamp fraudulently claimed. He added that the company has so far spent about R6.3m on this legal battle.

In total, the company has, due to Steenkamp’s embezzlement and fraudulent claims to SARS, suffered a loss of about R770m, according to Dawes’ testimony.

“Of the identified 336 transactions that went to the questionable accounts, 65 of them with a total value of about R11m went direct to the accused’s account and the balance went to her husband’s account,” the court heard.

Dawes testified that the last illegal transactions Steenkamp made were done in two separate transactions of R6m each in December 2016. They both happened after the death of her husband.

The court heard that the thefts stopped after Steenkamp was stripped of the three tokens which allowed her to load beneficiaries and release transactions. She eventually resigned and left the company after a brief period of conducting the account reconciliations.


Dawes testified that an analysis of bank statements by the curator indicated that a significant amount was spent on expensive overseas travel and massive amounts of money was used on gambling, jewellery and a range of various fashion items.

Some gambling happened during her overseas travels, with the highest amount spent in one night being R5m.

Change of lifestyle

Dawes said, as part of their investigations, witnesses interviewed said they noticed Steenkamps’s lifestyle change towards the end of 2005 and through 2006.

“The accused at that time explained the change in financial circumstances by either an inheritance from her late father, successful business ventures of her deceased husband or lucky winnings in her gambling,” Dawes told the court.

He added that the appointed curator had analysed the business ventures’ bank statements and found that these ventures were not profitable, and that they were largely funded by the money stolen from Medtronic.

Dawes said although there was a process taken to restrain and seize the available assets at the time of the accused’s arrest, no money was recovered. The total value of the assets seized was at that stage around R30m.

The court heard that despite the substantial amount stolen, the international company did not shed any jobs, as it was apparently able to absorb the big loss with its significant financial resources.

The court also heard that Medtronic was not insured for this type of loss.

Magistrate Phillip Venter presided over the matter and prosecutor advocate Tilas Chabalala represented the State.

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