File image: Former Steinhoff CEO Markus Jooste. (Photo: INLSA).
JOHANNESBURG - Steinhoff faces more turmoil as Moneyweb and journalists from Germany’s Norddeutscher Rundfunk (NDR), a public broadcaster and publisher based in Hamburg, obtained leaked emails and documents which show that Steinhoff accounts were tampered with dating all the way back to 2014. 

According to the report, it revealed that Steinhoff CEO Markus Jooste along with current and former colleagues, Dirk Schreiber and Siegmar Schmidt conspired to manipulate the company’s accounts.

It is believed that emails were exchanged among the three in August 2014, shortly before the company’s financial year ending June. 

Moneyweb reports that the e-mails began with a note from Schreiber to Jooste with a pro forma balance sheet as well as a profit and loss accounts for the European division for the year ending June.

Moneyweb said that they did not have sight of the documents attached. 

It was further reported that Jooste took a few days to review the documents and wrote back to Schreiber saying that he decided to impair JD’s book (the SA furniture retailer, JD Group) by R3.6bn and, as a result, this has “put [his] consolidated results out of balance”.

Following the allegations made in the report, Steinhoff responded through a media statement.

The statement reads: 

“In December 2015, Steinhoff published an announcement, confirming an investigation by the public prosecution office in Oldenburg regarding the balance sheet treatment of certain transactions. As you will be aware, PwC is conducting an investigation into potential accounting irregularities at Steinhoff as announced in December 2017. They have been given unrestricted access to the Group and its companies.

We have furnished PwC with copies of the e-mails that you sent to ensure that the subject matter thereof forms part of the investigation. We reiterate that Steinhoff is determined to ascertain the true and correct facts and to uncover all information required to take action against any individuals that may have been involved. Beyond that, we cannot comment in detail on the issues raised until we have the results of the PwC investigation. As material information becomes available, we may publish updates on the news services of the Frankfurt and Johannesburg stock exchanges.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg reported that Steinhoff International Holdings said a review by auditors at PwC into its accounts is focused on certain off-balance-sheet structures and deals with related parties and is likely to find that some assets, revenue and profit figures have been overstated.

Bloomberg further reported that as a result, the owner of Mattress Firm in the U.S. and Conforama in France may need to take additional impairments to those related to 6 billion euros ($7.3 billion) worth of assets already flagged, Chairwoman Heather Sonn said in a presentation on its website Wednesday. 

- BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE