FORMER Steinhoff chief executive Markus Jooste’s remuneration topped R333 million between 2009 and 2017.     Reuters
FORMER Steinhoff chief executive Markus Jooste’s remuneration topped R333 million between 2009 and 2017. Reuters

Hawks investigations into Steinhoff still 'far from complete'

By Edward West Time of article published Mar 20, 2019

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CAPE TOWN – Steinhoff executives who have been implicated in accounting irregularities that nearly imploded the international retailer would not face prosecution in the immediate future after the Hawks yesterday admitted that their investigations were far from complete.

Hawks head Lieutenant-General Godfrey Lebeya told Parliament's standing committee on finance yesterday its offices had only investigated one transaction since 2017.

Lebeya said the elite crime unit had not brought in any specialised auditing or accounting personnel to investigate the case. He said the Hawks would rely on the PwC report to further its case.

“There is budget to put a team together to work specifically on Steinhoff,” Lebeya said, adding that three charges that the Hawks initially investigated contained no specific detail.

The Hawks' admission came after the committee forced Steinhoff to disclose the name of the executives implicated in the financial scandal that wiped $7.4billion (R106.87bn) off its market value.

Yesterday, the committee heard eight people, including former chief executive Markus Jooste, were allegedly behind questionable transactions that brought the global retailer to near-collapse.

On Friday, PwC released a damning report that said an estimated 6.5bn worth of fictitious transactions took place between 2009 and 2017.

Jooste's total remuneration during the period topped R333 million, while the former chief operating officer took home R112m.

Other executives implicated include Siegmar Schmidt, Dirk Schreiber, George Alan Evans, Ben la Grange, Stephan Grobler, David Romano and Jean Noel Pasquier.

New chief operating officer Louis du Preez said the group was reluctant to release the names because of data and privacy issues relating to the legal processes in the Netherlands, where other legal actions were under way against Steinhoff.

Du Preez said Steinhoff would to finalise an agreement with creditors to put a stay on claims for three years.

Board chairperson Heather Sonn said directors still believed “there is a fight worth fighting” to save the company, which lost some 95percent of its share value when the first allegations of fraud came to light.

She said if creditors don't agree to the lock-up period for creditors, “this company will be in serious trouble.”

Committee chairperson Yunus Carrim described the Hawks investigations as deeply disappointing and uninspiring. He said the National Prosecuting Authority and the Hawks were the two most important institutions in the country with the teeth required to bring those implicated in the Steinhoff saga to book.

Steinhoff shares closed 4.06 percent lower at R1.89 on the JSE yesterday.


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