Charges dropped against Joburg businessman accused of giving expired food to soldiers
A company and its director, accused of giving expired food to the military during the lockdown, have been cleared of any wrongdoing after the charges were withdrawn.
National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) spokesperson Lumka Mahanjana confirmed to TimesLIVE that the charges were withdrawn “as there was insufficient evidence for successful prosecution”.
In a statement, the Serac Group — which was granted a tender by the department to supply food patrol ration packs nationally for divisions within the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) during its coronavirus deployment — announced that the “dubious charges” laid against one of its group companies, Serac MRE (Pty) Ltd, and director Stephen Wallace Weir had been withdrawn.
A handwritten and signed court charge sheet, dated February 2, confirmed that the charges against the company representative, Weir, had been withdrawn.
Weir, 59, of Johannesburg, who faced charges of fraud, theft, forgery and contravention of the Food, Cosmetic and Disinfectants Act, was released on R50,000 bail in September last year after he appeared in the Pretoria specialised commercial crimes court over the controversial tender that allegedly saw “best before” dates altered on food ration packs.
The company allegedly forged the dates in boxes containing pre-packaged food rations by changing the label best before dates. It allegedly covered the original expiry dates by placing stickers over them with a new date giving a misleading and/or false description. This was subsequent to video clips of soldiers that surfaced during the lockdown showing the discrepancy of the dates.
In a scathing statement, the company said any complaint relating to the quality and shelf life of the ration packs supplied to the military was “stillborn from the very start”.
“Food prepared for military personnel, and in particular the ration pack meals, is an extremely specialised industry. The SANDF was misinformed and poorly advised as to technical matters surrounding the specialised nature and supply of the ration packs.
“The ration pack contents had no issues with regards to quality and the SANDF consumed hundreds of thousands of those packs without so much as even a complaint until the video did its rounds,” read the statement.
The company said “scrutiny of the videos” circulating showed the packs “were not supplied by the Serac Group and the video is believed to be created for ulterior motives to destroy the Serac Group and its reputation”.
“The timing of the video was suspicious and is believed to have been aired and circulated for the sole purpose of undermining the successful award and approval of a large order for the Serac Group to supply the SANDF for its Covid-19 programme,” the company said.
“This entire debacle points to a continued and sustained attack on the Serac Group and its director Stephen Weir by competitors and government and SANDF stakeholders.”
The company said it has put the debacle behind it, and will take steps to restore brand confidence.
“This matter has been extremely damaging to the Serac Group and the group intends proceeding with civil actions against all parties involved who aligned themselves with this malicious prosecution for unlawful gains,” said Weir.
“The damages sustained by the group are significant and run to the hundreds of millions, but the parties involved will be held accountable and will pay.”
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