The complex nature of the Steinhoff probe – as evidenced by the PwC investigation and the German probe – means that on its own, the NPA would have taken many more years to get moving on this case, writes Khaya Sithole.
This past week, the needlepoint in the Steinhoff saga finally moved a couple of inches forward. Firstly, the news from Germany was that the law-enforcement agencies had finally come around to putting together what they hope will be a charge sheet that can sustain a prosecution. The charge seems to be for "accounting crimes" relating to the fraudulent representations in the financial statements of the company leading up to the end of 2017. While this is a major breakthrough, there is something oddly underwhelming about it. The heart of the charges seems to be the use of undeclared related entities to facilitate transactions with Steinhoff itself. In simple terms, companies that buy and sell assets are free to negotiate their way through any transaction. The skills of the negotiations team has a material influence on the ultimate price. Depending on whether one sits on the seller side of the table or the buying side, the levels of contentment when the deal is finally signed may vary.