A former KPMG auditor who was responsible for the audits of Gupta-owned Linkway Trading has pleaded with the auditors regulating body not to deregister him, saying he has already been punished a lot.

An independent disciplinary committee found Jacques Wessels guilty in 2018 of all six charges related to improper conduct and tax evasion which the Independent Regulatory Board for Auditors (Irba) levelled against him.

“To some degree, I have been punished a lot. When I left KPMG, I only got two months’ salary. For a period between October 2017 and October 2018 I had no income. To ensure that my children go to school I had to sell my vehicle,” said Wessels, while pleading for a lighter sanction on Thursday.

He spoke for the first time on Thursday about the audit work he did for the Gupta-owned companies and his relationship with the family. He said the incident had severely damaged his trust in people because his Gupta clients consistently denied any wrongdoing when he spoke to them before the Gupta leaks.  

“I have learned so many lessons. I shouldn’t have attended the wedding. The reality is in the public perception of auditor independence. I now believe in auditing firm rotation. You can’t keep a client for a long time.”

Wessels asked the disciplinary committee to consider a caution or reprimand as his sanction, saying he cannot afford to pay a fine. He described his financial situation as “difficult” because he had to cancel his insurance policies and let go of all “the nice-to-haves”. He said he has exhausted all but his retirement savings.

Wessels now works for a small accounting firm, earning a gross salary of R62,000 a month. He told the committee that he has a share in a game farm which he could sell for R450,000. The Auditing Profession Act 2005 allows Irba to impose a fine not exceeding R200,000 per charge.

“This is one file where I admit I failed. If you look at all the work I have done on numerous other clients over the years, it is of highest quality. And the lessons learnt from this will never be forgotten,” he said.

Wessels said he acknowledged that he caused damage to the auditing profession, especially to KPMG, but thinks there will not be any danger in allowing him to practise as an auditor again.