Although former KPMG auditor Jacques Wessels has become the first individual to face any real sanction related to the Estina dairy farm saga, after the NPA provisionally withdrew charges against Gupta family members and business associates in November last year – he has been barred from acting as an auditor – criminal charges may yet flow from the incident.

The Financial Mail notes Wessels was responsible for auditing the financial statements of Gupta-owned Linkway Trading, which was allegedly part of an elaborate scheme in which taxpayers’ money from the Estina dairy project – meant to empower disadvantaged Free State farmers – was used to pay for the wedding of the Gupta brothers’ niece, Vega, at Sun City in 2013.

He won’t be allowed to apply for re-registration, as is usually the case under the Auditing Profession Act, according to the Independent Regulatory Board for Auditors (Irba). And he has to contribute towards the R3.13m in costs that Irba incurred.

The FM points to a potential criminal investigation related to the matter. Irba says it will make its findings available to the NPA, but it’s up to the prosecuting authority to decide whether to use this information.

Irba says it’s not clear at this stage whether the NPA is considering charges of tax evasion, or if its focus is on alleged money laundering. KPMG itself has emerged from the Irba process unscathed. The regulator says it would only open a firm-wide investigation if there were significant concerns that audit failures are of a systemic nature.

Similarly, KPMG SA executive chair Wiseman Nkuhlu says while the firm acknowledges that Wessels’ work on Linkway fell short of the quality expected of the firm, and was unacceptable, Irba’s findings relate to Wessels specifically, and not to the firm.

Full Financial Mail report