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Hawks say Steinhoff still hasn't provided results of forensic probe

Sep 04 2019 14:59
Khulekani Magubane

Members of Parliament have slammed Steinhoff [JSE:SNH] leadership for allegedly "buying time" and "malicious compliance" regarding investigations into governance failures that caused the global retailer's share price to plunge, leading to billions of rand in losses for public pensions.  

On Wednesday, a year after former Steinhoff CEO Markus Jooste appeared before Parliament, four committees held a joint meeting to hear from Steinhoff leadership, National Treasury and various investigative bodies about the status of probes into the conglomerate. 

Major-General Alfred Khana, national head of the Hawks' Commercial Crime Unit, told MPs that the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation had struggled to get Steinhoff to comply with requests to hand over a 3 000-page forensic probe that was conducted by PwC.

Khana said the Hawks still needed the full report from Steinhoff, as well as a statement of complaint, if it had any chance of taking its investigations further. While Steinhoff chair Heather Sonn maintained that a draft report was sent to the Hawks, the Hawks said this was not helpful. 

Steinhoff has in the past said the report is privileged and confidential. At the Stellenbosch-headquartered retailer's annual general meeting in late August, Sonn said there was nothing "sinister" to be read into the report being kept confidential, saying it was not an attempt to protect the personal interests of anyone. 

Khana on Wednesday told the committee meeting that the Hawks had not yet converted the Steinhoff probe into a case docket. "[...] we are waiting for the PwC report as well as a statement of complaint from Steinhoff. I would like to believe that they are working on this statement currently, as we have been informed that a person responsible for it has since left the company," he said. 

Updates from other investigations into Steinhoff included: 

  • Rory Voller, the commissioner at the Companies and Intellectual Properties Commission, said once the CIPC had enough information, it intended to go to court and apply for certain former Steinhoff directors to be declared delinquent to prevent a repetition of the Steinhoff governance failures at other businesses. "Criminal cases and civil action have been taken in order to find those who have caused harm. There are, however, additional parts we are waiting for before we can take action," said Voller. He mentioned no names.
  • Directorate leader in the Financial Sector Conduct Authority’s market abuse investigation team, Alex Pascoe, told MPs that the authority was looking into the possibility of insider trading and the falsification of financial statements. He said a statement should be released on investigations into the latter later this month." We are close to finalising that investigation by October 2019," said Pascoe.
  • Outgoing Johannesburg Stock Exchange CEO Nicky Newton-King said the exchange would soon meet with the Frankfurt Stock Exchange - where Steinhoff has its primary listing - and the Dutch Authority for Financial Markets to discuss the progress of their investigations.
  • Bernard Agulhas, the CEO of the Independent Regulatory Board for Auditors, said, since appearing before Parliament last year, the regulator had extended the scope of its investigation of audits into Steinhoff by Deloitte as far back as 2009.

fsca  |  irba  |  pwc  |  hawks  |  steinhoff  |  parliament
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