THE former principal of Greenwood Primary School in Port Elizabeth has been convicted of stealing more than R1-million from school coffers.
He will be sentenced today.
Patrick Shelver pleaded guilty to his part in the R2.5-million fraud in the Port Elizabeth Commercial Crimes Court on Tuesday. However, after further deliberations yesterday, he retracted his plea and instead pleaded guilty to the alternative count of theft.
He admitted to pocketing R1.135-million.
It was the third time that Shelver had changed his plea, after initially pleading not guilty when the charges first came to light almost three years ago. Now he has implicated his co-accused, prominent attorney Michael Randell, in the theft.
Randell, well known for the legal work he carried out for embattled schools and teachers in the Eastern Cape, is maintaining his innocence. A separation of trials has accordingly been ordered.
The two were arrested in November 2009 after they allegedly defrauded the Park Drive primary school out of millions of rands by pocketing money from the sale of a school property.
The men allegedly purchased a property, situated near the school, with school funds. They then registered themselves as beneficiaries before selling the property at a profit.
Shelver and Randell, together with former school governing body member Michael Lascot, allegedly pocketed a total of R2.5-million. Lascot has since died.
In his plea statement to the court, Shelver said his troubles began in 1999 when Lascot informed him of a property on sale for R500000. The two were interested in buying it but did not have the resources to do so.
He said they then approached Randell, who was also on the school's governing body, to assist them in setting up a trust to serve as a vehicle to buy the property. They realised that if the school was involved in a joint business venture, they would be able to achieve their goal of obtaining the property.
The governing body agreed that it was a good investment opportunity and that the property would also provide the school with additional accommodation. Because the school put up the money, it would be the sole beneficiary of any profits raised. Meanwhile Shelver, Randell and Lascot were named as trustees.
The bond commitments were paid by a tenant.
But in 2005, after buyers showed interest in purchasing the property, the three men allegedly amended the trust deed and effectively listed themselves as beneficiaries of the pending sale. In April 2006, they allegedly sold the property for R3.5- million, on condition that the buyer build six classrooms and two garages on a section of the land.
The governing body was allegedly, according to Shelver's statement, under the assumption the sale agreement was that the classrooms and garages would be built. They were not made aware of the monetary payment.
Shelver said he was in possession of the trust chequebook and accordingly split the profits of the sale between the three of them. He pocketed R1.135 million. Randell allegedly received R800000.
The balance of the R3.5-million was used to pay costs such as tax and the outstanding amount on the bond.
While Shelver is sentenced today,Randell's case resumes on April 16.