Pravina Walabh, 33, a former candidate attorney with a prominent Cape Town law firm, is to be sentenced on 24 counts of fraud, five of sending out false information on the internet, with intent that the recipients react to it, three of crimen injuria, one of intimidation, one of violation of the Communications and Provision of Communication-related Information Act, and an offence relating to her unauthorised access to, interception of, or interference with data.
She appeared on Tuesday in the Specialised Commercial Crime Court in Bellville before magistrate Sabrina Sonnenberg.
Prosecutor Juan Agulhas called for a prison sentence, while defence lawyer Rheaz Khan countered that a fine, coupled with correctional supervision involving house arrest would meet the interests of justice, as well as society.
The prosecutor described Walabh as “young, beautiful and intelligent”. She holds a B.Sc, as well as a law degree.
The prosecutor added it was very puzzling why such a woman would commit “such despicable” acts.
Walabh was not a “woman scorned”, he told the court.
In her judgment last year, the magistrate said Walabh, had had a fixation with her supervisor – one of the senior partners, who had become engaged to an attorney at another firm.
Walabh’s motto was, “Don’t get mad, get even”, the magistrate said.
As a candidate attorney, Walabh had been keen to attend court proceedings, but her supervisor kept allocating cases to another candidate attorney, instead of to her, which had upset Walabh.
Walabh had denied any fixation with her supervisor, and in fact claimed to be asexual, and thus had no interest in men at all, the magistrate said.
The charges related mainly to Facebook emails and SMS messages and, according to the charge sheet, her method of operation was to create false Facebook profiles involving her supervisor and his fiancée.
The profiles portrayed the couple as being interested in “adult activities”, and disclosed their contact details.
As a result, the two victims received internet approaches from strangers reacting to the social media exposure.
According to the charge sheet, Walabh tried to “friend” some of the victims’ friends on Facebook.
Walabh visited websites randomly and subscribed the two victims to email newsletters.
Walabh was arrested in September 2012, after which the two victims received no more emails.
The magistrate ruled that the only reasonable inference to be drawn was that Walabh was responsible for this.
At Tuesday’s proceedings, the prosecutor said the two victims had been deeply humiliated “and one can just imagine the pain and anguish that they suffered”.
The defence conceded that the offences happened over a period of nine months, from January 2012 until her arrest in September of that year.
This, he conceded, could be taken by the court as aggravation of sentence.
He conceded that both victims had been severely traumatised, but said she had apologised to them and their families.
“That is the first step towards rehabilitation,” he said.
– African News Agency