Ex SAA boss denies fraud allegations

Former South African Airways (SAA) chief executive Andre Viljoen expressed "amazement" yesterday at a report that said he had benefited unfairly from the sale of company shares to its executive directors.

"I am amazed because the investigation must have been seriously flawed to come to such a conclusion."

The 101-page report, following an investigation, found 13 former SAA executives had illegally benefited from the sale of 27million shares held under an SAA Employee Share Trust, Business Day said on Wednesday.

The trust was set up to administer three employee share schemes. Viljoen said he, and other executives, had received their share options before he became and that the then chief executive, Coleman Andrews, had devised the scheme and decided on his allocation.

"So there can be no suggestion that I manipulated the scheme for my benefit," Viljoen said.

"There is no question of fraud and yet the reputations of some very fine people who worked hard for SAA have been damaged by these allegations, which seem to stem from a basic misunderstanding of the rules of the scheme."

The report found that Viljoen and his management team, contrary to the Trust Properties Control Act, took up the duties of trustees of the trust as the official trustees were "inactive", Business Day said.

Viljoen and his team had sold their shares in 2001 at the previous year's "healthy price" of R2,87, despite the act's terms that shares be independently valued yearly and sold at the current market price.

"It is open to argument that management, who were also directors, acted wittingly by directing the valuations and effectively being both seller and purchaser," said the report's authors.

The report followed an investigation initiated by Trade and Industry Minister Mandisi Mpahlwa.

Viljoen said his input was not asked for in the investigation and that he was considering legal redress to correct the "smear on my reputation". - Sapa