Court upholds three fraud counts against Boesak

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The Independent Online

An appeals court on Friday upheld anti-apartheid activist Allan Boesak's convictions for stealing money from his charity and aid money donated by singer Paul Simon.

The court, however, dismissed one of Boesak's four fraud convictions and reduced his jail sentence to three years from six years.

The ruling by the Supreme Court of Appeal marked the end of the fall of one of the most visible foes of South Africa's former racist regime.

In the 1980s, Boesak helped lead the campaign for black liberation as a top official with the African National Congress. The former head of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches traveled the world to highlight apartheid's injustice.

But last year, Boesak was found guilty on four counts of fraud and theft involving 1.32 million rand (worth dlrs 400,000 at the time). He stole the money mainly from foreign donors to his Foundation for Peace and Justice charity, including Simon and a Swedish government aid agency.

Boesak argued that some of the money Simon had donated was meant to be a personal gift for him.

The appeals court Friday upheld the two counts of stealing money from Simon and another count of stealing money from the foundation. It dismissed Boesak's conviction of stealing money from the Swedish group.

Defense lawyers said Boesak had been punished enough by the collapse of his religious and political careers and by the huge expense of fighting the charges.

Just before his appeal was heard in March, Boesak's Cape Town home was gutted by fire.