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No evidence of fraud after investigation, says Oceana

Preliminary feedback from an investigation by ENSafrica Forensics has not uncovered any evidence of fraud or criminal conduct by Oceana’s current or former employees or directors, the JSE-listed fishing group said on Friday.

Earlier last week, Oceana confirmed it was being investigated by the FSCA for allegedly issuing false and misleading information about its financial performance.

Oceana has delayed publishing its financial results for the year to the end of September 2021 several times, initially because of a forensic investigation by ENSafrica into the accounting treatment of the group’s 25% shareholding in Westbank Fishing LLC and Daybrook Fisheries Inc, a wholly owned subsidiary of Oceana.

Auditors PwC subsequently expressed concerns about the dating of signatures on an internal document relating to a $4 million insurance claim that was paid out to Oceana. This matter was also referred to the forensic investigators.

In its SENS announcement, Oceana said, “based on the preliminary feedback received from ENSafrica Forensics, no current or former employees and/or directors are likely to be implicated in any matters resulting in financial loss to the company” and “none of the matters considered as part of the ENSafrica Forensics investigation is likely to result in a financial loss to the company”.

It said ENSafrica Forensics’ investigation was expected to be completed on 4 March.

The board anticipated that the provisional annual financial statements will be released by 9 March, and the company’s financial statements for the year to the end of 30 September 2021 will be released by 25 March.

Oceana said a disciplinary process was pending against Hajra Karrim, whom the board suspended as chief financial officer on 7 February.

However, the group said the issues being addressed as part of the disciplinary process “do not pertain to matters which are related to the financial information of the company, nor do they include alleged complicity on the part of the CFO in respect of the subject matter of the investigation”.

Oceana’s chief executive, Imraan Soomra, resigned last week.

The group said that, at time of Soomra’s resignation, it had already begun “a process with the CEO to deal with certain of the matters which related to the CEO’s conduct, and which had been investigated or arose during the investigations conducted by ENSafrica Forensics”.

However, Oceana said it was of the view that Soomra’s “actions and reasons for his resignation did not result in financial losses to the company, nor did it directly contribute to the inability of the company to publish its financial information in a timely manner”.

It said the company and Soomra undertook mutual obligations of confidentiality in relation to his departure, and Oceana considers that it is not appropriate to provide further details at this stage.

On Friday, Oceana’s shares closed 3.7% higher, at R53.86, compared to Thursday’s close.

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