File image: IOL.
File image: IOL.

Hawks appoint auditor and team of investigators for Steinhoff transactions

By Banele Ginindza Time of article published Jun 20, 2019

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JOHANNESBURG - South Africa’s enforcement agency, the Hawks, are appointing an auditor along with a crack team of specialised investigators to sift through the myriad of Steinhoff International’s third party and extrapolated transactions by former directors and board members of the beleaguered retailer.

The group’s shareholders are demanding accountability on the multi-billion rand scandal.

In an interview yesterday following the release of the retailer’s financial report for the 2018 fiscus, Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi said the agency had made a breakthrough in accessing the PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) forensic report, which Steinhoff had kept under wraps from law enforcement.

Mulaudzi said intensifying of the investigations would help in identifying the roles played by different directors in the plunder of funds at the retailer, which is now also the focus of investigations by Germany’s authorities.

“We have accessed that PwC report, although Steinhoff did not want to give it to us.

"There are positive leads we are following to identify specific infractions. The investigation is now moving quicker and more swiftly,“ Mulaudzi said.

According to a PwC Advisory Service report released in March, third-party deals are at the heart of an ongoing accounting crisis that’s almost destroyed the global retailer.

Steinhoff identified eight individuals, including former chief executive Markus Jooste and other former senior employees, it said were allegedly responsible for inflating asset and profit values, contributing to $17billion (R249bn) of write downs.

The PwC’s investigation revealed that a small group of unnamed Steinhoff former executives and other non Steinhoff executives, led by a senior management executive, structured and implemented various transactions over a number of years, which substantially inflated the profit and asset values of the group over the period from 2009 to 2017.

A pattern of communication emerged, according the report, which shows the senior management executive instructing a small number of other Steinhoff executives to execute those instructions, often with the assistance of a small number of persons not employed by the Steinhoff Group.

“The transactions identified as being irregular are complex, involved many entities over a number of years and were supported by documents including legal documents and other professional opinions that, in many instances, were created after the fact and backdated,” the report noted.


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