Priest Pleads Guilty of Fraud

December 13, 2007

A prominent Anglican priest was on Thursday given a suspended jail sentence after pleading guilty to misappropriating almost half a million rands in donor funds.

Reverend Matt Esau, a former personal assistant to Archbishop Desmond Tutu, was at the time of the offence chief executive of the Career Research and Information Centre (CRIC), a Cape Town-based non-government organisation.

Thursday's conviction, in the Cape high court, was in terms of a plea agreement with the directorate of public prosecutions.

Judge Anton Veldhuizen sentenced Esau to five years' jail, conditionally suspended for the same period.

Esau also has to do 104 hours of community service next year at the St George's Cathedral soup kitchen in Cape Town, and pay R100 000 as restitution to the donor, USAID.

In terms of the agreement he pleaded guilty to misappropriating R460 957 in funds donated to CRIC by USAID, which is the US government's international aid agency, and by the Umsobomvu Youth Fund.

CRIC, apparently now defunct, was working in the education field, targeting disadvantaged youth from black communities.

It provided an extensive resource centre with information on training possibilities and job opportunities, including individual counselling.

Esau is currently the "transformation officer" of the Anglican church in Southern Africa, and acted as church spokesperson in the election earlier this year of a new archbishop of Cape Town.

In the late nineties, when he was a parish priest in Mitchell's Plain, Esau served on the Board of the National Development Agency.

He has been involved with numerous other non-government organisations.


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