Hawks ordered to provide weekly updates on Steinhoff investigation to Parly

SA's directorate for priority crime investigation, the Hawks, must give Parliament weekly updates on the progress of its investigation into Steinhoff, chairperson of the oversight committee on finance Yunus Carrim said on Tuesday.

The Hawks were among a number of groups that briefed a joint sitting of three committees about the latest developments at the Stellenbosch-headquartered retail conglomerate.  

In December 2017, Steinhoff's share price plunged after its auditors flagged accounting irregularities in its books. 

'Uninspiring' feedback

Carrim said on Tuesday that feedback provided by the Hawks was "uninspiring". He said it would have been better if the Hawks had said they had nothing new to say and left it at that. 

Earlier, Lieutenant General Godfrey Lebeya said the Hawks were finalising the investigation into a single transaction for fraud at Steinhoff. 

"We were almost ready to deal with one individual dealing with that one incident, but now we have noted 10 other transactions similar in nature that we need to pursue."

He said all the incidents must be investigated together. 

But MPs were not happy with this response.

DA MP Alf Lees expressed his frustration that the Hawks only probed one transaction in an investigation that has lasted over a year. He asked how it was possible that five people were investigating a single transaction which was yet to be completed.

"This is the biggest corporate fraud in the history of SA and [the Hawks] traced one transaction, which was not concluded, and no one has been charged."

Carrim asked whether the Hawks had taken steps to secure access to the full 15 000-page PwC report, as it had been known since at least Friday that the investigation was complete.

Carrim gave the Hawks 24 hours to secure the report, failing which they should take legal steps to get the report.

Earlier, during his briefing to the committee, Steinhoff CEO Louis du Preez said he was the only person at Steinhoff with a written copy of the report. He said electronic versions were available to a select few, but these "cannot be printed".

Steinhoff considers the report subject to legal privilege and confidential. 

'Sensitive information' 

In response to criticism, Lebeya said that the Hawks had sensitive information that could not be made public at this point, which was why the report to Parliament appeared watered down.

The Hawks do not have specific budgets for specific investigations, nor do specific individuals deal with only one investigation, Lebeya said.

According to Lebeya, the reality is that given the number of cases at hand, the Hawks cannot deploy a team to each case. He said the directorate has teams which work on a number of cases. 

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), which also observed the briefing, issued a statement later on Tuesday. Cosatu deputy parliamentary coordinator Tony Ehrenreich said the little progress made was unsatisfactory.

"The manner in which this matter is being attended to, is leading to a loss of confidence by the South African public into the state's ability and willingness to confront and stop corruption," he said. Cosatu wants the Hawks and the National Prosecuting Authority to take action, and for the president and the ministers of police and justice to intervene.

Cosatu also wants the Asset Forfeiture Unit to freeze the assets of former CEO Markus Jooste.

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