Steinhoff’s former European finance chief, Dirk Schreiber, was handed a 3-and-a-half-year jail sentence by a German court, making him the first top manager to be imprisoned over an accounting scandal that led to the near-collapse of the retailer.
The Oldenburg court, which issued the verdict on Monday, also convicted ex-director Siegmar Schmidt and gave him a suspended sentence of two years.
Both men won a reduction of one year each because the probe took too long, the court said, meaning Schreiber must only serve 2 1/2 years.
Former Chief Executive Officer Markus Jooste was also charged in the case but failed to show up in court for his trial in April. Jooste has only appeared once to answer questions about the global retailer’s downfall when in 2018, he told lawmakers in Cape Town that it originated from a protracted dispute with a former partner.
Schreiber, who also stood trial for credit fraud, had told the judges in June that he knew about sham deals at the retailer and intends to give German prosecutors more information to bolster their probe.
He was convicted of accounting violations and aiding in credit fraud.
Schmidt initially told the court he always thought the transactions were valid, and he acted on orders by Jooste. He later admitted to certain wrongdoing.
The two men were among eight people that were named by the company in 2019 following a forensic probe by auditor PwC that uncovered R134.85 billion (€6.5 billion) of irregular transactions with eight firms over eight years.
German authorities first searched the offices of Steinhoff Europe Group Services GmbH in 2015 — two years before the parent company’s demise — and just before the retailer’s listing on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange.
Those raids in Westerstede, a small town close to Oldenburg in the North of Germany, were based on suspicions certain Steinhoff units may have booked income through sales of assets to other companies which, in reality, were part of the group. Steinhoff has its roots in the town.
George Alan Evans, who was charged next to Jooste, in April settled his case by paying €30,000.