Markus Jooste reported to Hawks over Steinhoff saga

31 January 2018 - 10:48 By Linda Ensor
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Markus Jooste, former CEO of Steinhoff.
Markus Jooste, former CEO of Steinhoff.
Image: Jeremy Glyn

Former Steinhoff CEO and major shareholder Markus Jooste has been reported to the Hawks for suspected offences under the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Practices Act‚ Parliament was told on Wednesday.

The alleged transgressions were reported to the authorities on Tuesday night by the chairman of Steinhoff’s audit committee‚ Steve Booysen.

The revelations were made in a presentation by Steinhoff office bearers during a hearing by three parliamentary committees: the standing committee on finance‚ the standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) and the portfolio committee on public service and administration.

The Steinhoff delegation included members of the supervisory board — acting chairperson Heather Sonn‚ Johan van Zyl‚ and Booysen — as well as members of the management board: acting CEO Danie van der Merwe and commercial director Louis du Preez. Major shareholder Christo Wiese was also present.

In her presentation Sonn said that accounting firm PwC had made good progress in its forensic investigation of the accounting irregularities‚ the revelation of which prompted the sharp decline in the company’s share price.

In the next few days PwC would advise on the focus of its further investigations‚ she said.

“PwC has been given an unrestricted scope with unlimited access to the group. Their investigation will independently establish the facts of what went wrong‚” Sonn said.

“The scope of the PwC forensic investigation is unlimited and includes all supervisory and management board members‚ including the audit and risk committee members.”

Sonn gave Steinhoff’s undertaking that it would “uncover the truth‚ fix what went wrong and prosecute wrongdoing”‚ but noted that because of the investigations under way it was constrained in what it could communicate publicly.

“We are working constantly to maintain and improve liquidity of the group to enable continued trading by our operating companies‚ to preserve and restore value for all of our stakeholders‚ including lenders and shareholders‚” she said.

“We are working hard to establish stability in the group‚ to finalise reliable financial statements and to ensure that the investigations are far enough advanced to enable us to begin taking the legal and other necessary steps we intend to take based on the findings.”

Sonn said Steinhoff was working with Deloitte to finalise the 2017 consolidated financial statements and the restated 2015 and 2016 results. It was in the process of appointing an internationally experienced chief restructuring officer.

“The international clusters have been stabilised and near-term liquidity has largely been secured. In each region the group has put in place appropriate legal and technical support‚” Sonn said.

“We are entering the next phase of broader lender engagement and are now in a position to develop some strategic options.”

Jooste declined an invitation to appear at the joint hearing. His lawyer‚ Callie Albertyn‚ said in a letter to the finance committee that Jooste is “no longer a director or employee of Steinhoff”. That prompted the DA's David Maynier to say Parliament would have to consider summoning him to appear before the finance committee.

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