Imraan Soomra, the CEO of South African fishing giant Oceana, abruptly resigned on Feb. 14, a week after the company suspended CFO Hajra Karrim until further notice.
Oceana appointed Neville Brink as interim CEO.
Soomra was appointed interim CEO in February 2018, and CEO in August 2018, after former CEO Francois Kuttel announced his resignation to take on a controlling stake of Westbank Fishing, which operates the Daybrook Fisheries fleet in the United States.
Soomra served as Oceana’s CFO beginning in July 2013 and worked closely with Kuttel.
The departure of Soomra and last week's suspension of CFO Karrim followed several delays in Oceana’s latest financial results after “queries” raised by a whistleblower prompted the company to undertake an independent investigation.
The questions predominantly related to "the accounting treatment of matters pertaining to a United States subsidiary” -- namely the group’s 25 percent shareholding in Westbank Fishing -- which is held by Daybrook Fisheries Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Oceana.
Westbank owns fishing vessels and operates a commercial fishing business to supply Daybrook with 100 percent of its catch.
In a stock exchange announcement at the end of January, Oceana said the investigation and analyses had concluded.
While no evidence of fraud was uncovered, the company will review accounting of Daybrook and Westbank, the company said.
"The board is cognisant that the timing for Mr Soomra’s resignation is unfortunate given the challenges that the company is currently facing, the most pressing of which is the delayed publication of the financial results," a spokesperson for Oceana told IntraFish.
To that end, the board is working with the auditors, the JSE and Oceana’s advisors to expedite the resolution of outstanding matters in order to pave the way for publishing of the annual financial results, he added.
Oceana risks being suspended by the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) due to the delay in publishing its financial results.
According to the JSE’s listings requirements, financial results should be published within three months, and audited financial statements within four months, of a listed firm’s year-end.
Oceana’s operations have not been affected in any manner by these ongoing challenges, the spokesperson added.
"It is important to note that the forensic investigation did not find any evidence of fraud or malfeasance, and we stand by its rigour."
The suspension of the CFO still stands, however, and the internal process is ongoing.