Former Steinhoff CEO says his family trust held R3billion in shares when accounting scandal broke

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PARLIAMENT, September 5 – Former Steinhoff chief executive Markus Jooste on Wednesday told MPs the day an accounting scandal hit the multi-national retailer, his family trust held shares worth around R3 billion.

Steinhoff’s announcement of “possible accounting irregularities” and Jooste’s resignation on December 6 saw the company’s share price plummet and saw the Public Investment Corporation, which invests on behalf of South African state workers, lose over R20 billion.

During his testimony before MPs after he was subpoenaed to appear before four parliamentary committees, Jooste was asked to declare his personal stake in Steinhoff.

“I have a family trust that has an investment company and at the date of the Steinhoff demise, we had through indirect holdings 68 million Steinhoff shares….”

Asked how much this was worth in rands and cents, he said on the day of the collapse it was valued at R3bln.

Jooste placed the blame for what’s been described at the country’s biggest financial scandal on a transaction with the former business partner, Austrian Dr Andreas Seifert.

The former CEO’s version of events was that Seifert instigated a tax probe by German authorities. Allegations by Seifert then became the focus of an independent investigation by two firms, which Jooste said concluded there were no accounting irregularities.

However, he said Deloitte insisted that it wanted a separate probe and refused to sign off on the company’s financials.

He said he shared an opinion that Deloitte had “lost its independence” when it refused to sign off on the company’s financials and insisted on a new probe.

“My advice and Dr [Christo] Wiese [former supervisory board chair] agreed with that and that we made an announcement that day that the audit has not been completed but that unaudited results will be released by Wednesday, the 6th of December,” he said.

“I was clear in my view and others shared that with me that Deloitte’s proposal at that stage in time would have had a devastating effect on the value of the shares. I did not attend the supervisory board meeting the next day and was informed the next day that the board decided to appoint new auditors to conduct an investigation from scratch.”

Jooste insists he knew of no accounting irregularities.

– African News Agency (ANA)