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Thursday October 18th, 2018 1:13AM

Atlanta Bread Company CEO, brother resolve South African fraud charges

By The Associated Press
<p>The chief executive of the Atlanta Bread Co. said Tuesday he and his brother have pleaded guilty to a banking violation in South Africa and agreed to pay fines, while remaining fraud charges against them have been dismissed.</p><p>"It was disappointing when it happened because we felt we had not done anything wrong," CEO Jerry Couvaras said in an interview with The Associated Press. "Unfortunately we had to plead to something. We felt the fine would be the quickest way to get back to doing our business."</p><p>In a disclosure statement being distributed to its franchisees, the cafe and bakery chain said Couvaras and his brother, Basil Couvaras, reached a settlement with South Africa authorities on Oct. 8. Basil Couvaras is the chain's chief operating officer.</p><p>Under the agreement, the two men pleaded guilty to one count of violating the country's banks act. Jerry Couvaras paid a fine of $190,000, while Basil Couvaras paid a fine of $120,000, the statement said.</p><p>Remaining charges of fraud were dismissed as part of the agreement, Jerry Couvaras said.</p><p>"The State expressly acknowledged that we obtained and relied upon legal opinions from our local South African lawyers stating that our plan for raising and lending funds was lawful, and that in relying on those legal opinions we did not have any intent to violate that regulatory act," the brothers said in a statement.</p><p>Johannesburg police said Couvaras was arrested by Interpol on March 21 at Johannesburg International Airport as he was trying to return to the United States. He was charged with fraud after some 2,000 South Africans lost $6.5 million in an investment scheme that collapsed either in 1992 or 1993. His brother was later charged in the case.</p><p>Atlanta Bread Company officials said the charges were unrelated to the company and instead were connected to a decade-old lawsuit that was settled.</p><p>On Tuesday, Jerry Couvaras said he was looking forward to putting the case behind him.</p><p>"I think people can really see through what's happened here," he said. "People can see what this was really about. I think it was really old animosity."</p><p>The Atlanta Bread Company was founded in Atlanta in 1993 with one restaurant. Couvaras, a former investment banker who was born and raised in South Africa, joined the company a year later and was appointed president and CEO in 1995. His brother Basil has held the chief operating officer job since 1995.</p><p>Today, the privately held chain has 170 restaurants in 25 states.</p><p>___</p><p>On the Net:</p><p>HASH(0x2865a68)</p>
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