JOHANNESBURG - Former Steinhoff International chief executive, Mark Jooste, on Tuesday refused to appear before four Parliamentary committees probing the accounting irregularities scandal, saying that his appearance would undermine his right to a fair trial.

Jooste was supposed to appear before the Standing Committee on Finance; the Standing Committee on Public Accounts; the Portfolio Committee on Public Administration and the Portfolio Committee on Trade and Industry on Wednesday to explain his role in the accounting scandal.

The accounting scandal crashed the Stellenbosch-based furniture and household goods retailer's share price late last year, leading to billions of rand lost of South African pensioners' monies. Jooste promptly resigned. 

In a letter from his lawyers, De Klerk and Van Gend Attorneys, Jooste said that he has "decided to respectfully decline [the] invitation to appear before the three committees".

"Our client points out that he resigned his position as CEO of Steinhoff with effect from 6 December 2017 and is not in a position meaningfully to assist the committees," Jooste's lawyers said. 

"In addition, the Financial Services Board (FSB) is currently in the process of investigating the Steinhoff matter. The FSB has summonsed our client in terms of the Financial Markets Act, no 19 of 2012, to be interrogated on a wide range of issues pertaining to Steinhoff."

Jooste's lawyers also said that since various criminal complaints have been lodged with the police against him, as well as the fact that the Hawks have indicated that they are investigating criminal complaints against Jooste, all indications are that he will probably be prosecuted with regard to the Steinhoff matter. 

"Appearing before the committees to be questioned on Steinhoff will, in these circumstances, undermine our client's right to a fair trial guaranteed in section 35(3) of the Constitution," they said.

As a result, the committees said in a statement that they will, in consultation with the Parliament’s Legal Service Unit, decide on Wednesday whether to subpoena Jooste and will inform the Speaker’s Office of their decision.

 - African News Agency (ANA)