Hawks meet with Steinhoff leadership, but no charges yet against Markus Jooste

Johannesburg - Priority crime investigating unit the Hawks has met with Steinhoff leadership to discuss suspicions of fraud committed by the group's former CEO Markus Jooste, but no charges have yet been laid against the SA businessman. 

Hawks spokesperson Hangwani Mulaudzi told Fin24 on Wednesday morning that the directorate had met with the chairperson of Steinhoff’s audit committee and director Steve Booysen on Friday to discuss a Steinhoff document that outlined the firm's suspicions that Jooste had 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”, Mulaudzi said. 

The National Prosecuting Authority will need to conduct a preliminary investigation before anything further can take place.

On Tuesday last week, acting Steinhoff chairperson Heather Sonn told a joint sitting of three Parliamentary committees that the board has reported Jooste to the Hawks, but didn’t give any further details.

Sonn said the board had taken this decision after receiving a progress report from forensic auditors PricewaterhouseCoopers. 

PwC were retained to conduct a forensic investigation into Steinhoff's books after the group's statutory auditors Deloitte flagged accounting irregularities in early December 2017. 

Steinhoff management has been unable to give a clear indication when they expect this work to wrap up.

Jooste resigned as CEO on December 5 after the accounting irregularities become known.

Since his resignation the Stellenbosch-headquartered retail giant's share price has plunged by over 80%, wiping out an estimated R200bn in shareholder value.

By 10:20 on Wednesday, Steinhoff shares were trading at R6.37. The shares closed trading on the JSE at R46.25 on the evening before Jooste's resignation was made public.

Jooste has not given any interviews since his resignation. He did not appear before a Parliamentary committee last week that heard evidence from other Steinhoff executives and board members.  

The Companies and Intellectual Properties Commission, meanwhile, has reportedly given the Steinhoff board six months from the start of February to identify who was behind the accounting irregularities and institute criminal action against them.

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