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Tongaat Hulett welcomes the appearance in court of seve...

Business Maverick

COMPANIES

Tongaat Hulett welcomes the appearance in court of several former executives

Labourers at the Tongaat Hulett production line in Triangle, Zimbabwe. (EPA-EFE / Aaron Ufumeli)
By Tim Cohen
10 Feb 2022 1

It’s not every day that a company welcomes criminal charges being brought against its former executives, but nothing about sugar producer Tongaat Hulett seems ordinary these days.

Seven people, including six former Tongaat executives, appeared in the Durban Specialised Commercial Crimes Court on Thursday on fraud charges relating to accounting practices associated with the sale of the sugar producer’s land between 2015 and 2018. 

The former Tongaat executives are CEO Peter Staude, CFO Murray Munro, managing director of Tongaat Hulett Developments Michael Deighton and ex-Tongaat Hulett Developments planning directors Rory Wilkinson, Kamasagrie Singh and Samantha Shukia. The seventh accused is Gavin Kruger, who was the Deloitte audit partner on the Tongaat Hulett account. They were all granted bail. 

In response, Tongaat Hulett company secretary Johann van Rooyen said: “Tongaat Hulett welcomes this development in the legal process and it will continue to cooperate with law enforcement authorities whenever required to ensure that those responsible for the historic mismanagement of Tongaat Hulett are held accountable.”

The company has some skin in the game since it, too, is taking four former executives to court in civil proceedings. Although the cases are distinct since one is a criminal and the other a civil procedure, the facts will overlap since they both concern the auditing irregularities.

In both cases, it is alleged that the company effectively falsified its accounts to make the company seem more profitable than it actually was. 

Tongaat said on Thursday that the charges stem from the alleged fraudulent activity which took place between March 2015 and September 2018, which saw the suspects cooperate to backdate land sale agreements. The backdated sale agreements had a significant impact on the company’s financial results, it said.

The case was postponed to 11 April. BM/DM

 

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