A South African police unit is probing three cases of fraud at Steinhoff International Holdings NV after the embattled retailer submitted a series of allegations against former Chief Executive Officer Markus Jooste.
Two of the cases were reported in Stellenbosch, where Steinhoff is based, and one in Johannesburg, Minister of Police Bheki Cele said in a reply to a parliamentary question emailed on Friday. As well as fraud, one of the Stellenbosch cases adds theft, extortion, forgery and a failure to report knowledge of wrongdoing to the list of offenses.
Jooste, 57, quit as CEO of Steinhoff on December 5, the day the owner of Conforama in France, Mattress Firm in the US and Poundland in the UK reported accounting irregularities that have wiped more than 95% off the company’s share price. Steve Booysen, the chairman of Steinhoff’s audit committee, submitted the report against Jooste to the Hawks, as the police unit is known, at the end of January.
Steinhoff itself is being investigated by legal authorities and regulators around the world and is being sued by a Dutch investor group and former Chairman Christo Wiese. The retailer has appointed PwC to probe its finances, with a particular focus on off-balance-sheet structures and deals with related parties. Its findings are expected to be published by the end of the year.
Steinhoff’s report accuses Jooste of being party to the falsification of accounting records, providing false or misleading information with a fraudulent purpose, being party to an act or omission by Steinhoff calculated to defraud creditors, employees or shareholders, and being party to untrue written statements required by the Companies Act, Cele said.
Steinhoff shares fell 0.9% to 8 euro cents as of 11:31 am in Frankfurt, where the company moved its primary listing in 2015. Separately on Friday, Steinhoff won support of creditors representing 85% of the external debt of Steinhoff Europe to extend a support period for the company to agree to a debt restructuring plan.
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