The supplier at the centre of a halaal meat court row claims that the company was framed, saying that the allegations against it were deliberately crafted and that the court case was orchestrated to cast it in a bad light in a “very competitive” meat industry.
According to papers filed at the Western Cape High Court on Tuesday, Patrick Gaertner, MD of Orion Cold Storage, said three of the main sources behind the allegations could not be trusted.
One was an unrehabilitated insolvent who was trying to extort money from the company.
The other was his brother-in-law and a third worked for a competitor, who stood to benefit from the disruption of Orion’s business, he said.
Orion, formerly known as Airport Cold Storage, has investigated the matter and has reported the matter to the police this week to ask for a criminal investigation.
“What was discovered shocked me deeply,” Gaertner said in papers.
The papers were filed in response to an interim interdict application lodged against the company by the SA Halaal Authority Trust (Sanha), the Red Meat Industry Forum of SA and the SA Meat Industry Company.
The application was after a search and seizure carried out at Orion’s Muizenberg premises last Wednesday.
According to the papers in the interdict application, the applicants alleged that Orion imported pork products from overseas and relabelled them as halaal.
The applicants also claimed in papers that Orion had removed the labels of expired broiler turkeys returned and relabelled them to pass them off as turkeys that had not expired.
In addition, it was alleged that non-food-grade milk powder for animal feed was relabelled as skim milk powder.
The papers indicated that the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) had been approached about launching a criminal investigation.
However, Orion filed opposing papers in which it vehemently denied the allegations and claimed that it was a set up.
Gaertner said in an affidavit that Orion had not received any complaints from its clients. Gaertner added that one of the applicants’ informants was an independent sales agent, who worked for commission from an office at Orion’s Muizenberg premises under another name. He was not an Orion employee.
There was friction between them after Gaertner discovered that the informant was an unrehabilitated insolvent.
The relationship worsened when Gaertner started having difficulties with his transactions.
The business relationship with him was terminated in October – just before the interdict application was lodged. According to him, the informant had instructed a small group of Orion’s employees to relabel stock.
According to the workers, they were controlled and supervised by the two informants, who gave them the incorrect labels to apply and supplied them with the cleaning material to remove the expiry dates, Gaertner said.
Orion has affidavits from some of the workers, who confirmed that they had acted under the instructions of the informants.
One of the informants took video clips of the relabelling and later attempted to extort money from Orion, threatening to go public with the video clips.
Gaertner attached copies of e-mails from the informant in which he attempted to extort R1.2 million.
The application was set to be argued tomorrow.