Peter Staude, former CEO of Tongaat Hulett.
Former executives of struggling sugar producer Tongaat Hulett made their first appearance in the Durban High Court on Thursday, facing charges related to fraud amounting to about R3.5 billion.
Former CEO Peter Staude and former CFO Murray Hector Munro are among the accused that appeared, with the case adjourned to 17 February 2023 for a pre-trial conference. The accused will remain out on bail.
The over 150-year-old sugar producer, which traces its roots to the 1850s and is one of KwaZulu-Natal’s biggest employers, asked the JSE to suspend trade in its shares in June 2019 after an investigation flagged accounting practices that meant previous financial results could not be relied on.
A PwC investigation identified 10 executives, including Staude, who were allegedly involved in profit inflation. It concluded that there was a culture of deference within Tongaat that led to employees not questioning accounting practices.
The PwC investigation identified practices that inflated profits, as well as practices that inflated the value of assets, including its sugar cane, and the company has been forced to restate previous financial results, including for the six months to end-September 2018. That restatement resulted in total assets decreasing by about R12 billion, or just over a third.
Those appearing on Thursday also include former Tongaat directors Michael Edward Deighton, Rory Edward Wilkinson, finance executive Samantha Shukla, legal executive Kamasagrie Singh, and auditor Gavin Dykes Kruger from Deloitte and Touche, the National Prosecuting Authority said in a statement.
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