SAICA lays charges against 'dishonest, unworthy' Markus Jooste

Former chief executive of Steinhoff, Markus Jooste.
Jaco Marais
  • South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA) has charged former Steinhoff CEO Markus Jooste with four counts of misconduct.
  • He has 21 days to respond to the charges.
  • SAICA said its disciplinary committee considers Jooste "discreditable, dishonourable, dishonest, irregular or unworthy".

The South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA) says it is ready to start disciplinary proceedings against former Steinhoff CEO Markus Jooste.

The country's professional body for accountants has slapped Jooste with four charges for dishonesty, being "unworthy" of SAICA membership and bringing the accountancy profession into disrepute, among other things.

SAICA said Jooste has 21 days to respond to its charges.

"Once his response to the charges is received, the SAICA secretariat will review the response and table the matter for adjudication before the Professional Conduct Committee," said the organisation in a statement.

While Jooste resigned from Steinhoff in December 2017, admitting "making some big mistakes" in a personalised letter, it has taken authorities more than three years to bring him to book. German prosecutors charged him in March.

SAICA suspended Jooste's membership in July 2019 after he offered to resign from the professional body. By that time, SAICA had already started disciplinary proceedings against Jooste following the release of the forensic investigation report into Steinhoff in March 2019. But it only charged him now.

While formulating charges against Jooste continues, there have been growing calls and questions from the public, as well as civil society bodies, regarding the length of the process. While criminal prosecution is the ambit of the National Prosecuting Authority, SAICA's charges add to series of recent events that have not gone in Jooste's favour.

SAICA said after "an extensive period of investigation", it has now formulated charges of misconduct. It charged Jooste for conducting himself in a manner that SAICA's disciplinary committee considers "discreditable, dishonourable, dishonest, irregular or unworthy". It added that such conduct was "derogatory" to the Institute and brought the profession into disrepute.

Breaking down the four charges, SAICA noted that Jooste breached a number of its by-laws, including those concerned with integrity and objectivity.

SAICA said Jooste was aware of non-compliance or suspected non-compliance with the Financial Markets Act and the Companies Act and yet failed to respond or report that. Instead, he used inside information to deliberately discourage some people from investing in Steinhoff.

Furthermore, he knew that Steinhoff was facing increased scrutiny from its external auditors regarding accounting irregularities when he engaged with horse racing company Mayfair Speculators when it requested further advances from Investec.   

"As an executive director of Mayfair Speculators, he approved the distribution of the dividend in specie to Mayfair Holdings despite being aware that the Steinhoff share price was likely to be significantly negatively affected by matters within his knowledge," added SAICA.

The Institute said it also charged him for making material misrepresentations to Steinhoff's audit committee and Parliament regarding the allegations of accounting irregularities in the company's annual financial statements.