Former Witness boss in court for fraud

2016-06-01 20:03
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Durban - Former managing director of The Witness newspaper Greg Orsmond appeared briefly in the Durban Commercial Crimes Court on Wednesday.

The former newspaper baron faces 453 charges of fraud and has made a string of appearances in the court.

The next one has been set for June 30, National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Natasha Ramkisson-Kara said.

Orsmond was managing director of The Witness Group and Fever Newspaper Group until he was axed in April 2013 for "gross negligence".

An audit and forensic investigation revealed Orsmond had allegedly siphoned off nearly R11m from mainstream and community media houses.

In a detailed charge sheet before the court, Orsmond allegedly made unauthorised payments amounting to nearly R11m for his personal gain.

Ghost payments

According to the charge sheet, 267 charges were related to payments made for the distribution of newspapers, but investigators claim the service was never rendered. Those charges account for nearly R10.5m of the unauthorised payments.

"The investigation revealed Sky Blue Media [a Fever Newspapers subsidiary] made payments into the account of Trifid Design, wherein the accused was the sole proprietor. The accused authorised and requested payment for services that were never rendered," the charge sheet reads.

The remaining 186 fraud charges arise from alleged ghost payments for distribution. The State contends these went to private building upgrades to his home and were worth nearly R670 000.

"Investigations revealed this was for private and personal work done on the accused's farm in Shelly Beach."

In a handwritten affidavit Orsmond submitted to the court in support of an application for bail, he indicated he had made an effort to fully co-operate with investigators and would continue to do so.

"I am married and have three children and I am employed and I support my family. If I am granted bail, I undertake to attend court whenever I am requested to do so," he wrote.

Insolvent

Media24, which now owns The Witness, obtained a high court judgment against Orsmond late in 2013 for R10 119 178.23 (plus interest dating from July 6, 2013).

The judgment was obtained for damages suffered as a result of Orsmond’s alleged "reckless or grossly negligent and/or fraudulent conduct".

Orsmond had since failed to comply with the judgment or indicate to the sheriff what disposable property he had that would cover it.

He was found to be insolvent, because his liabilities exceeded his known assets, and placed under sequestration in April this year.

*News24 is owned by 24.com, a subsidiary of Media24.

Read more on:    durban  |  fraud  |  media

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