Muslims not fed pork: Orion
The CEO of Orion Cold Storage has denied that Muslims “had been fed for years”, adding that religion emotion continues to surround the halal meat scandal and Muslim religious bodies were in fact misleading the public. In a statement issued on Monday, Patrick Gaertner indicated that much has been “fabricated to fuel the fire”.
He reiterated that the two whistleblowers who exposed the relabelling of imported products on Orion’s premises had little credibility and had attempted to extort money from the company in order to prevent the story from being exposed. Gaertner also maintains that the subsequent high court rulings had not proven anything against Orion.
“The Red Meat Industry Forum and Sanha (the South African National Halaal Association) approached the National Prosecuting Authority to take action against Orion by way of a search and seizure order based on information supplied by the ‘whistle-blowers’. The order was refused due to the allegations being unsubstantiated,” he stated. Earlier Sanha had reported that the search in seizure order had been executed with documents having being seized.
“The same applicants then applied to the Cape High Court for an Anton Pillar search and Seizure Order and for an interdict preventing Orion from carrying out the many illegal activities it was accused of perpetrating. These orders were carried out ex parte (without Orion being able to defend its position) on the strength of a single confirmatory affidavits supplied by one of the two ‘whistle-blowers’. Nevertheless Orion successfully defended the interim interdict application,” Gaertner stated.
“Product sold as halal in South Africa is covered by overseas halal certification issued by internationally recognized authorities. Most customers in South Africa are happy to accept this certification. South Africa has a unique situation in which there are four different regulatory bodies – Sanha, MJC, ICSA and the NIHT – who all charge for further certification, and compete for the same business. Suppliers of halal meat may be registered with any of these bodies. With the exception of ICSA, the other bodies refuse to accept certification issued by any of the South African halal bodies,” he said.
However, speaking to VOC, all four halal bodies indicated that there were differences between local and international halal standards and the fact that the MJC was the only halal body to certify halal imports was a point of contention among them. At a meeting between the four bodies in December both Sanha and the NIHT reiterated the claim that having “halal” imports certified locally meant that local halal standards had to be dropped. On its part, the MJC agreed that while there were differences, its stood by the international halal slaughterhouses with whom it liaised to certify halal imports locally.
According to Gaertner, the application for an interdict against Orion on November 22 failed. “Orion could not deny that acts of sabotage were committed on its premises, and following the total severance of any further business dealings with the two saboteurs, is comfortable in offering an undertaking (unlimited in time) that no such acts would ever be allowed to take place on its premises. As a gesture of goodwill to the Muslim community, Orion offered to absorb the costs of Sanha, but refused to accept the costs of SAMIC and The Red Meat Industry Forum.”
He reported that on November 29, the court ordered the return of all the documents and computer data seized. “Thus the second action causing all the media hype also failed. Sanha continues to publish on its website that Orion was found guilty of various offences and that the interdict against Orion was granted. The facts do not support this. These blatant misrepresentations by a religious body are questionable.”
Gaertner confirmed that the MJC had withdrawn its halal certification after approving 18 poultry consignments as halal in 2011, and adding that there had been no physical inspections on Orion’s premises. “The facts show otherwise. Some 25 consignments were inspected and certified. These include inspections on its premises. Yet another religious body has chosen to mislead its members,” Gaertner stated.
He said his staff had volunteered statements to assist in the investigation of sabotage and extortion charges. Orion further applied for indemnity from prosecution for two employees who admitted on affidavit that they assisted the “whistle-blowers” in isolated cases of sabotage, in return for their cooperation in the investigation.
“Traceability of the pork incorrectly labeled has been supplied to the relevant authorities. The product was used in the manufacture of non-halal products at an establishment generally used to manufacture meat products containing pork. The buyer of this product has supported Orion investigators and police, and has issued a statement that he is neither halal certified, nor does he produce halal products. Allegations that Muslims have been ‘fed pork for years’ are untrue,” Gaertner said.
He added that his company had supplied original halal certification as part of its court records for the poultry allegedly labeled as “halal” on its premises. “Only product bought and certified as halal has been labeled as such. Following the scandal, an inspection was carried out by City of Cape Town officials, after which it was publicly announced that no evidence of such labeling or irregular marketing was evident. The Department of Agriculture has approved Orion as an import and export facility and Orion is an approved Customs Bond store,” he said.
Gaertner maintained that his compnay has been the subject of a two-pronged vindictive sabotage of its business operation. “One for blackmail and extortion, and the other for the benefit of its competitors. Orion is taking all possible steps to assist SAPS and SARS in their investigations against the perpetrators of these crimes. Civil claims will follow the criminal cases,” the statement concluded. VOC