South Africa

Hawks had arrest warrant for Markus Jooste prior to death

Markus Jooste

Markus Jooste, the former CEO of scandal-ridden retailer Steinhoff who died Thursday, had been told to hand himself over to South African police, according to legal authorities. 

The National Prosecuting Authority and Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation secured arrest warrants for the lead suspects involved in the Steinhoff collapse, according to a joint statement by the agencies on Friday. 

Steinhoff former legal head, Stehan Grobler, presented himself at the Pretoria, South Africa, central police station before appearing in the city’s specialized commercial crimes court Friday morning.

A call to Grobler’s mobile phone went straight to voicemail, and he didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Jooste allegedly took his own life on the afternoon of March 21 after being notified of the arrest warrants, the agencies said.

“The exit routes were secured before the message of securing their attendance in court was shared with the defence to ensure that none of the suspects leave the borders,” the statement said.

Jooste’s criminal case will be dropped because of the 63-year-old’s alleged suicide, but civil claims and a R475 million fine levied against him by the financial regulator for making and publishing false, misleading or deceptive statements about the company may still be pursued.

Steinhoff, the former owner of Conforama in France and Mattress Firm in the US, had a dramatic share-price collapse after auditors refused to sign off on its financials in late 2017, and Jooste resigned.

That led to the start of police and regulatory investigations in both Europe and South Africa.  

A forensic probe by auditor PwC uncovered €6.5 billion ($7 billion) of irregular transactions with eight firms over eight years. Jooste was charged in Germany on allegations that he was the architect of the accounting scandal, which he denied.


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