Why Markus Jooste won't face Parliament for Steinhoff hearing

Markus Jooste, the former CEO of Steinhoff resigned in early December 2017 amid an accounting scandal.
Markus Jooste, the former CEO of Steinhoff resigned in early December 2017 amid an accounting scandal.

Cape Town - Embattled businessman and former Steinhoff CEO Markus Jooste will not appear before Parliament for the Steinhoff hearing on Wednesday. 

According to a statement issued by Parliament on Tuesday, Jooste's lawyers, De Klerk and Van Gend Incorporated wrote to portfolio committees of finance, public accounts, public administration and trade and industry excusing their client.

“Our client has decided to respectfully decline your invitation to appear before the three committees,” the letter read.

According to the letter, appearing before the committees would "undermine" Jooste's right to a fair trial.

Jooste is under criminal investigation by the Hawks and it has been previously reported that "various criminal complaints" were lodged with the South African Police Service against Jooste. 

Among the other reasons given by Jooste is that he resigned from the position of CEO on December 6, 2017 and is “not in a position meaningfully to assist the committees”.

Another reason is that the Financial Services Board (FSB) is investigating the Steinhoff matter, and Jooste has been summoned by the FSB and will be interrogated on issues related to Steinhoff.

Chair of the standing committee of finance Yunus Carrim said that ultimately the committees will hold negotiations and decide whether to subpoena Jooste on Wednesday. 

"This argument that Mr Jooste cannot turn up because he is no longer with Steinhoff is unacceptable to the committees. In fact it is precisely Mr Jooste that has most to account for in the collapse of the Steinhoff shares and its implications for a wide range of people in our country and elsewhere in the world."

Carrim recognised that Parliament has the right to call anyone to appear before it, including through a subpoena. At the same time there is a criminal justice system, which requires those of wrongdoing to reserve their rights and have a fair defence in a court.

He explained that the balance between Parliament's rights and that of the individual will be reached by the speaker's office, Parliament's legal services unit and if needed senior counsel outside of Parliament.

"What I imagine will happen tomorrow, the committees are likely to say that we pursue Mr Jooste further." 

The Steinhoff hearing will still be held on Wednesday. There will be briefings by the FSB, the Independent Regulatory Board for Auditors and the Companies and Intellectual Properties Commission. Auditing firm PwC will also give an update on the progress of their investigation. 

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