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Criminal: Ex-employee gets extortion plot sentence reduced

McDonald’s has thwarted an extortion plot by a former SA employee Clement Seothaeng who threatened to tarnish the company’s reputation with its customers. A Business Day report says Seothaeng sent a video to the group in which he is seen spitting on an ice cream cup while wearing his work uniform. He threatened to release the video if the company did not pay him R100 000. The company filed criminal and malicious injury to property charges. Seothaeng was convicted and sentenced to 10 years imprisonment for extortion and five years’ imprisonment for malicious injury to property (see McDonald's worker gets 10 years for extortion in Legalbrief Today). Last week, he appealed against the sentence, arguing that the court over emphasized the seriousness of his crimes and that the sentence was ‘grossly excessive’. His appeal was partially successful after the Gauteng High Court (Pretoria) agreed that two years of the five-year sentence for malicious damage to property should run concurrently with the 10-year extortion sentence, leaving him with an effective 13-year sentence. The judges noted that Seothaeng’s conduct had the potential to affect McDonald’s brand which is worth millions. ‘It is important to have regard to the context as correctly argued on behalf of the respondent (the NPA) that the appellant enjoyed a trust relationship with McDonald’s as an employee. By extorting R100 000 from his employer, the appellant broke the trust which must be viewed in a serious light,’ they said. ‘To interfere with the sentence that was imposed by the court will send a wrong message and negate the seriousness of this kind of offence. It follows that for the offence of extortion we are not persuaded that there is merit and these grounds in so far as that offence is concerned must fail.’

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