GABORONE – Botswana domiciled regional retail giant, Choppies has suspended chief executive officer, Ramachandran Ottapathu, the firm said in a statement on Wednesday.

Choppies did not give details around the suspension, but an extensive legal and forensic investigation into the supermarket chain’s operations is underway at the firm, which had its stock suspended on both the Johannesburg and Botswana stock exchanges.

Choppies has a footprint spanning across eight African economies including Zimbabwe, Kenya and Zambia

The statement said the Choppies board had reached the decision to suspend Ottapathu during a board meeting held on Monday.

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“The suspension of Mr Ottapathu takes effect from Wednesday 22 May 2019 and will subsist until such date as the board determines the action, if any, to be taken in implementation of the recommendations made in the investigation reports that will follow the completion of the legal and forensic investigations announced by the company on 5 March 2019,” the Choppies board said.

“The legal investigation is anticipated to conclude by the end of May 2019 (having extended from the end of April 2019). The forensic investigation is anticipated to conclude by the end of June 2019,” the statement noted.

Farouk Ismail, the current deputy chairman of the Choppies board, assumed the role of acting CEO on Wednesday, as the firm appointed Redford Capital of South Africa as chief restructuring officer (CRO).

“The role of the CRO will, in summary, entail reviewing the Choppies business and identifying various action plans for implementation within the business to improve it,” Choppies said.

Redford has over 25 years experience in providing business related services that include assisting clients to resolve challenges and meet strategic and operational objectives.

Choppies has been suspended from trading its shares on the two bourses after failing to publish financial statements for the period ending June 30, 2018.

On Wednesday, the retailer said it was working on issues relating to the delay.

In the eight African countries where it has a presence, Choppies operates about 200 stores, principally in Botswana and the north-western parts of South Africa, where it had 72 outlets in 2017.’

This makes South Africa its second largest market after Botswana.

It has a market value of around US$3,4 million. Choppies has 1,3 billion shares listed on the BSE and JSE.