Allegations linking Mr Benjamin Ward to the ouster of Mr John Moxon as executive chairman of Meikles Limited – which the former disputes – are just part of the controversies that have stalked the ex-Lornho executive’s corporate journey.
On February 23, 2014 the Business Times of South Africa reported that Mr Ward and his workmate Mr Francois Le Roux were the target of an assassination plot orchestrated by former workmates Mr Paul de Robillard – a former head of Lornho’s global logistics company, Rollex – and Mr Gavin van der Burgh.
The executives had ordered a forensic audit of Rollex and Oceanfresh (the Lonhro unit Mr Ward managed) after it emerged that the logistics business could have been used to smuggle tobacco.
Mr Ward was appointed as the head of Oceanfresh after a Swiss company bought the business. It was, however, discovered that the business was only a shell and its price grossly inflated.
The alleged assassination plot resulted in Mr Ward and Mr Le Roux being given 24-hour security.
Though it is undisputed that Mr Ward indeed worked for Lornho, an internal review conducted by Meikles after he tendered his CV for a board appointment actually shows a disturbing trend of major inconsistencies.
While he initially claimed to have graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce degree from the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa, he later indicated that he had abandoned his studies mid-way.
There were also difficulties in verifying the testimonial letters written by his former employers at Capespan, a global fresh produce trader. He worked for the company as a finance and operations director from 2004 to 2006.
The testimonial letter, dated November 19, 2015, was written by Mr Ronan Lennon. But it was later discovered that not only was the letter written by an individual who no longer worked for the company, but that the letterhead used was on Capespan’s old stationary.
Also, Mr Lennon’s signature, which is on Mr Ward’s letter, was distinctly different from the one which appeared on documents he had previously signed. The same problems were again experienced when Meikles tried to verify his testimonial letter from another firm, Munoz, which was purportedly signed by a Mr David Haresign.
It did not have the physical address of the company or any contact details; and was deemed unverifiable.Similarly, Meikles failed to contact a Mr Wilkinson who had written the Lornho testimonial.
A damning assessment made after a review of his CV indicated that it “was laced with embellishments and downright misrepresentations. The net result of an assessment of Mr Ward’s integrity is that one is left with the unavoidable conclusion that Mr Ward has been less than honest in his dealings with Meikles Limited pertaining to his qualifications”.
Meikles also feared that the seeming misrepresentations could result in reputational damage to the company.
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