IT specialist fined for attempted extortion

Cape Town - An IT specialist was fined R6 000 or six months in jail by a Cape Town court on Thursday, for trying to extort a client who swore at him.

Alex Anderson appeared in the Bellville Specialised Commercial Crime Court, where magistrate Sabrina Sonnenberg found him guilty of attempted extortion (blackmail).

Anderson had been engaged by the estate agency Boland Landmark to upgrade the agency’s website, but his mandate was terminated after a falling-out with Jan Phillips, Boland Landmark's owner.

According to the charge sheet, Phillips contacted another specialist to continue the upgrade. The new contractor however encountered problems because Anderson had taken over the registered status of the website’s domain, as well as the service provider, and refused to return them.

In earlier proceedings, Anderson told of a telephone call he received from "a petulant" Phillips in October 2009, when Phillips demanded he come into his office.

As Anderson entered the office, Phillips shouted "fuck" at him, and that one word was the sum total of their discussion, Anderson said.

Anderson said he immediately walked out of the office, and demanded an apology from Phillips, which he had not received. Anderson added: "If I was not sworn at, this case would never have happened.

"When he used that word at me, rage got hold of me, and I had to control myself - either walk away, or do something I would be sorry about afterwards.

"He started swearing at me without even greeting me or anything," he lamented.

Sonnenberg said Anderson had threatened in a letter to Phillips to "give the media a big story, that will harm your company more than you have bargained for".

The letter made it clear that Anderson had wanted to harm the business, she said.

She said extortion did not only involve a demand for money, as contended by defence attorney Liesl Vermaak.

Anderson’s demand for the apology before returning the domain to Boland Landmark, coupled with his threat to harm the business, amounted to attempted extortion, she said.

Sonnenberg said the R6 000 fine, as proposed by Vermaak and prosecutor Juan Agulhas, was appropriate.