Police still investigating death of former Steinhoff CEO

POLICE are still investigating the alleged suicide of former CEO of Steinhoff, Markus Jooste, which has been shrouded in a cloud of doubt and disbelief. | Henk Kruger Independent Media

POLICE are still investigating the alleged suicide of former CEO of Steinhoff, Markus Jooste, which has been shrouded in a cloud of doubt and disbelief. | Henk Kruger Independent Media

Published Mar 31, 2024


POLICE in the Western Cape have said they were still investigating the death of businessman-turned-fraudster Markus Jooste, who reportedly died a day after the Financial Service Conduct Authority (FSCA) slapped him with a fine for fraud.

Disgraced former CEO of Steinhoff International, Markus Jooste, reportedly shot himself on Thursday last week, just after the FSCA imposed a R475 million penalty on him after concluding that he had contributed to the publication of misleading or deceptive financial statements about the company.

Many questions had arisen after Jooste’s alleged suicide, with many suspecting that the businessman pulled a “Thabo Bester” stunt, so named after the infamous rapist and murderer who faked his death and escaped prison.

Asked to provide details on Jooste’s death, Western Cape police spokesperson Malcolm Pojie said they were still investigating the matter. “We are working closely with the investigating officer to confirm all details around Markus Jooste’s death,” he said.

Pojie refused to confirm whether the person who died was indeed Jooste.

In a report on the day, police said: “We can confirm that Hermanus SAPS opened an inquest docket for further investigation following the death of a 63-year-old man earlier today. Police were activated to attend to a shooting incident at about 2.40pm at Kwaaiwater Beach in Hermanus. The deceased succumbed to a fatal gunshot wound to the head shortly after arrival at a private hospital.”

The FSCA last week issued a penalty of R475m to Jooste, which includes a R10m reimbursement for costs incurred in its investigations. The penalty was supposed to be paid by April 19 and would attract 11.75% interest until paid in full. The FSCA was also opening criminal proceedings against Jooste.

“The investigation found that Jooste and Dirk Schreiber made or published false, misleading or deceptive statements about Steinhoff International Holdings Limited and Steinhoff International Holdings NV, which they knew or ought reasonably to have known were false, misleading or deceptive. Such publication included the omission of material facts,” the FSCA said last week when it fined Jooste.

Schreiber, who was chief finance officer for Steinhoff Europe, escaped financial sanctions because he co-operated with investigations into the company’s accounting irregularities.

The FSCA said that due to Schreiber's co-operation, it did not impose an administrative penalty.

Jooste’s death has attracted a lot of attention, triggering doubts as to whether he was indeed dead.

Last week, Independent Media reported that Jooste’s wife Ingrid, who is 20 years younger than her former husband, chose to join her friends for a game of golf on the same day that Jooste died, and just 24 hours after the FSCA fined her husband R475m.

Ingrid headed out for a game of golf while her husband walked to the beach and killed himself.

The funeral arrangements are still unclear as police have indicated that they were still investigating Jooste’s mysterious death.

Before his death, Jooste was also barred from holding office in listed companies for 20 years after European regulators, journalists and law enforcement became aware of his fraudulent activities.

In 2014, Steinhoff International agreed to purchase Pepkor Holdings for more than $5.7 billion, adding clothing to the furniture retailer's inventory. Jooste had joined Steinhoff in 1988 after engineering the sale of a South African retail chain to Steinhoff's German owners.

Teaming up with serial investor Christo Wiese in 2014, they went on an aggressive international expansion programme. The conglomerate's stock reached its highest point in March 2016, bolstering its approach of funding dividends and acquisitions through stock sales. However, this was short-lived before everything went south.

Following his rise in business, it was only a short time before it was found that Jooste exaggerated profit and asset values and concluded undisclosed deals with third parties outside the balance sheet. Deloitte LLP requested an internal investigation before approving the 2017 financial statements.

However, Jooste resisted this demand and needed help convincing the Steinhoff board to appoint new auditors. Jooste submitted his resignation on December 5, 2017, followed by Wiese nine days later when a large investor, PIC, called for independent oversight.

Jooste's resignation was followed by an involved and protracted controversy concerning Steinhoff's accounting practices in its Central European business dating back to 2014.

The uncertainty saw some R160bn of Steinhoff's value wiped off the markets in days, with continuing losses as the situation unfolded – leading to Steinhoff's demise in 2023.

The Steinhoff crash wiped more than R200bn off the JSE, and the pension funds of millions of people took a massive hit. Tales of fraudulent accounting, lavish spending, and ructions in the “Stellenbosch mafia” made the headlines.

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