“I was full of emotion. I knew I was not guilty, but when magistrate Brian Venter said those words, it was a surreal moment,” said 46-year-old Mathura on Wednesday.
Mathura was speaking during a return visit to the Johannesburg Commercial Crime Court, where he was refunded his R5 000 bail and handed the court-stamped document that stated he was found “not guilty” on all 14 counts of fraud (alternatively theft) arising from his employer Ellerines Furnishers, part of Ellerine Holdings Ltd.
“I have been coming to this court building over the years and you know that the whole world is against you. Now, there is a great sense of freedom,” he said.
Mathura will send the document to his former employer, a Swiss-based manufacturing and distribution company which he had represented in Southern Africa and had been forced to leave because of the negative publicity surrounding the court case.
“I understood their position, but told them they should wait for the outcome. But then they would have had to wait three years and I doubt they would have had the patience.”
Mathura is “keen to get back into the corporate world again”.
Being unemployed because of the fraud allegations, he had been forced to form his own company. It has interests in a variety of sectors. His son, Shabadh, 22, will run it if Mathura could secure a job in the corporate world.
Mathura is also considering legal action options against his accusers. “There are big implications to consider. Unfortunately, in the commercial court, you don’t get costs awarded to you. You have to take out a civil claim,” he said.
Defending his name and reputation had cost him more than R1.3 million, his wife, Jagruthi, said on Wednesday.
He said in a recent social media posting that he had been “castigated in the media ridiculed and judged by the public and subjected to all forms of disrespect from his peers in the entertainment industry and corporate sector”.
He and his wife had endured reputational damage, his entertainment career had come to a grinding halt and their two children had suffered psychological trauma.
On Monday, the magistrate said the case should never have come to court.
It was “shockingly weak at best,” said Venter.
According to his judgment, most of the witnesses’ testimony was riddled with contradictions and/or blatant lies and/or sudden convenient loss of memory.
When the magistrate made his ruling, Mathura’s wife and their 19-year-old daughter Simran burst into tears of relief.
Mathura said the allegations against him were “ludicrous and bizarre”.
He had been one of two senior marketing executives at Ellerine Holdings Ltd, responsible for driving a multibillion-rand retail sales portfolio.
The issue involved billing Ellerines Furnishers for a promotional campaign. Advertisements were flighted on Lotus FM radio and Mathura was accused of overcharging for this service.
The sum involved kept changing over the course of the case, with the allegation ending up in the region of R630 000, not the R887 467.20 the media regularly reported.
Mathura said he had signed an agreement with Ellerine Holdings that he would provide voice-over services at a discounted rate. His accusers had not understood that payments also had to be made for production and studio time, script-writing, music rights, “the whole package”.
“It’s not rocket science, that’s how the industry works. Someone from SABC was even called to give evidence for the State, but ended up saying they had got an excellent deal from me.”