CAPE TOWN - Crime investigating unit, the Hawks has met with Steinhoff leadership regarding fraud committed by its former CEO, Markus Jooste. However, no charges have yet been laid against the embattled businessman.
The directorate had allegedly met with the chairperson of Steinhoff’s audit committee and director Steven Booysen on Friday to discuss a Steinhoff document that indicated the firm’s suspicions about Jooste.
The document details Jooste's committed offences under the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act.
“No charges have been laid, it’s just a report that they gave us…dockets have been opened which are still under investigation”, said Hawks spokesperson, Hangwani Mulaudzi.
Before any further developments can take place, the National Prosecuting Authority will need to conduct a preliminary investigation.
Steinhoff acting chairperson Heather Sonn earlier informed MPs that the company had reported a fraud case against former Steinhoff chief executive Markus Jooste with the Hawks, a unit of the South African Police Service.
Christo Wiese said he became aware of the accounting irregularities days before it was confirmed in early December. He was at pains to point out that the auditors who pointed out the irregularities in the 2017 financial statements had been the same company "paid handsomely" to do previous audits, the integrity of which are also now been questioned.
Booysen said while initial reports of fraud at Steinhoff being investigated by German authorities surfaced in September last year, irregularities were only confirmed in December.
Jooste was asked to make a presentation to explain certain transactions and "more importantly the cash flow of certain transactions", said Booysen.
"Markus Jooste then did send an sms [text message] to me as audit chairman and the content of the sms really led me to the conclusion that that is confirmation of the accounting irregularities and then he later offered that evening to make his presentation for which he didn't pitch up..."
Booysen said Jooste tendered his resignation at 19:45 that same evening.
The Government Employees Pension Fund, through the PIC, owned about R28 billion in Steinhoff‚ about 10 percent of the shares of the company, but only one percent of the total assets of the Fund. But following the massive decline in Steinhoff's share price‚ the GEPF's investment was worth a little over just R2 billion.
Meanwhile, Steinhoff is asking some of its convertible bond holders including investors in its 2023 1.1 billion euro notes to waive their rights in relation to its failure to deliver certificates of compliance, it said on Tuesday.
Steinhoff is fighting for survival after discovering accounting irregularities in December, knocking its shares and triggering a raft of changes in its boardroom and leadership.
Steinhoff International said earlier last month that it was seeking some liquidity to the tune of R3bn from its existing funders to ease off its financial woes.
Jooste was the first high profile name to leave the company when the group admitted to accounting irregularities dating back to December 2015. He is currently being investigated by the Hawks. Jooste was followed by chairperson Christo Wiese, who had taken over the reins as executive chairperson after Jooste left last month.
At the beginning of the year, chief financial officer Ben la Grange also resigned, bringing the number of high-profile executives to leave the troubled retailer to a total of three.
- BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE