Tongaat Hulett welcomes NPA action against former executives

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has finally charged several former Tongaat Hulett executives as well as a Deloitte audit partner with fraud, following an almost two-year-long investigation linked to the accounting scandal that rocked the group a few years ago.

Seven accused, including Tongaat Hulett’s long-time former CEO Peter Staude and Gavin Kruger, the Deloitte audit partner that worked on the group’s audit, appeared in the Durban Commercial Crimes Court on Thursday in relation to fraud charges totalling R3.5 billion.

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Other Tongaat Hulett executives who appeared in court on the fraud charges include the group’s former CFO Murray Munro, former managing director of Tongaat Hulett Developments Michael Deighton, as well as Rory Wilkinson, Kamlasagrie Singh and Samantha Shukla.

The JSE-listed sugar producer and land developer welcomed the NPA’s court action and progress in the case on Thursday.

“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,” Johann van Rooyen the group’s company secretary said in a statement.

The seven accused were granted bail of R30 000 each, after the case was postponed to April 11, when it is expected to resume in the high court.

“Late in 2019, Tongaat laid criminal charges against former executives identified for their role in undesirable accounting practices as a result of the PwC forensic investigations. The charges stem from 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,” the group noted in its statement on Thursday.

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“The PwC forensic investigations identified that certain senior executives initiated or participated in undesirable accounting practices which resulted in the company’s profits being overstated over a number of years. This led to the loss of value to our shareholders and many of our other stakeholders.”

“Additionally, civil proceedings brought by the company against four former executives during 2020 are also underway, and Tongaat Hulett will update on developments in this regard when appropriate,” the group added.

Read: Tongaat Hulett confirms civil claims totalling R450m against implicated former executives