Magashule’s ex-bodyguard jailed for stealing R8m painting

RICARDO Mettler, former bodyguard of the former Premier of the Free State, Ace Magushule, was sentenced to an effective 15 years imprisonment in the Free State High Court for stealing a Pierneef painting R8-million.

Judge Soma Naidoo sentenced Mettler to 15 years for stealing the painting,  a 2nd 15 years for money laundering and a third 15 years for fraud. 

The court found that Mettler pretended that the painting was donated to him by Magashule, and that it legally belonged to him. In addition, Judge Naidoo sentenced Mettler to 12 months for making a false statement to the police, in which he claimed that Magashule gave him the painting.

Mettler stole the painting in March 2018 while helping to vacate the office of Magashule. He removed the barcode and covered it with a brown paper. He then offered the painting to Wei-Lun Hsu, for a loan of between R2 million and R3 Million.

Hsu then advertised the painting in the newspapers to see if there is no one who would claim it. A senior official from the Department of Public Works recognised the painting and contacted Mettler requesting that he return it. Mettler refused and a charge of theft was laid against him.

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State Prosecutor, Advocate Antoinette Ferreira, said that Mettler knew he was stealing a valuable painting the day he took it from the Premier’s Office.

“The accused had a motive when he wanted to disguise the marking. He knew the painting was valuable in March 2018 when he wanted to offer it Hsu as a guarantee. He was twice requested to return the painting but he refused. He was motivated by greed. He abused his position of trust and there is a public outcry from the community of public officials who think they are entitled to government resources”, said Ferreira.

Mettler will effectively serve 15 years imprisonment after the court ordered the sentences to run concurrently.

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