Meat wholesaler to plead not guilty
The managing director of a Port Elizabeth meat wholesaler – accused of paying kickbacks to a Boxer Superstores executive – has denied any unlawful conduct after he appeared in the Durban Commercial Crimes Court on Thursday.
On Sunday, Fred Hume of Hume International, a meat wholesaler in Springfield, said he intended pleading not guilty because he believed the company had not broken any laws.
“It is our view and that of our legal counsel that we have not contravened the law and are confident in our defence,” Hume said.
The former senior executive of Boxer Superstores – a Pick n Pay subsidiary – who was in charge of importing meat for all 250 SA stores, has been accused of taking kickbacks from suppliers, including Hume.
David Brandsma, who resigned in August 2017 from his position as national food executive, was responsible for buying R40m worth of meat products every month.
Brandsma, along with his wife, Beverley, and two of his suppliers – Hume and Jeffrey Knight – are all listed in the charge sheet.
They are facing hundreds of charges, ranging from corruption to money laundering and fraud.
In a statement to the court, prosecutor Wendy O’Brien said the butchery department in each store had the highest sales and profitability and was critical to the success of each supermarket.
Brandsma had been employed in 2011.
In June 2017, while he was on holiday in the Seychelles, employees at Boxer discovered that certain invoices – all from suppliers introduced to the company by Brandsma – appeared to be inflated.
“Further investigations revealed there was a corrupt relationship between him and these suppliers [Hume and Knight],” O’Brien said.
The companies – which are accused in their own right – are Two Be Sales 5 cc, owned by Brandsma and his wife; Hume International, owned by Hume, and South Atlantic Meat Import and Export, trading as Transtrade, owned by Knight.
The charge sheet said that Brandsma would receive quotes from the suppliers.
He would then respond, often in text messages, saying “take them” and then Boxer would be invoiced at a later stage, allegedly for an inflated amount.
It is alleged that between 2013 and 2017, Transtrade deposited more than R33m and Hume more than R23m into Brandsma’s personal account and into the Two Be Sales account.
Other charges relate to allegations that Brandsma had entered into an unlawful agreement with the suppliers, allowing them to add between 10c and R3/kg on to the cost price of products.
“It is true that the words ‘corruption, fraud and money laundering’ appear in the charge sheet. These are currently nothing more than allegations and remain to be proven,” Hume said.
“We are co-operating fully with the police and have already done so for many months.”
He denied allegations that his business premises on the corner of Springfield Road and Luke Avenue were raided by the Hawks last week and that he had been detained by police.
“I can confirm our offices have never been raided by the Hawks nor any organ of state.
“It is indeed a requirement of our criminal justice system that an accused must be ‘arrested’ before they can again be ‘released’ on bail.
“Such an arrest can take many forms and, as I fully cooperated with the police, I can confirm that I was not detained in a cell, handcuffed or anything similarly dramatic,” Hume said.
All the accused were released on bail of between R50,000 and R75,000.
All stated in affidavits that they would plead not guilty to the charges and said they had been aware of the investigation since 2017 and had co-operated fully with the investigating officer, Colonel Piet du Plooy.
The contents of the bulky docket are to be handed to their legal representatives in February and they will appear in court again on August 26.
Boxer marketing director Andrew Mills said the supermarket was the victim in this case.
“The fraud was committed against Boxer and we are determined that the sums will be recovered through the legal process, which has taken a significant step forward today [Thursday],” Mills said.