Steinhoff International Holdings NV reported former chief executive officer Markus Jooste to South Africa’s anti-graft police unit for suspected corruption offences as the global retailer battles to recover from an accounting scandal.
The owner of Mattress Firm in the US and Conforama in France alerted the division known as the Hawks as part of an investigation into financial irregularities at the company, acting chairman Heather Sonn told lawmakers in Cape Town on Wednesday.
Steinhoff still doesn’t know the origin of the crisis and is conducting its probe as quickly as possible, she said.
Sonn is appearing at a hearing called by three parliamentary sub-committees to deepen their understanding of the crisis and subsequent investigations. Ex-chairman and biggest shareholder Christo Wiese also gave evidence, the billionaire’s first public outing since the start of the crisis. He described news of the wrongdoing as a “bolt from the blue.”
Jooste, who quit when Steinhoff said it uncovered accounting irregularities on Dec. 5, and former CFO Ben La Grange are not attending the hearing. Neither Jooste nor Wiese have previously commented on the origins of the crisis, which has wiped 85% off the value of the company.
Wiese’s net worth has plummeted to about $2.3 billion from more than $5 billion in the wake of the accounting scandal, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
He’s became Steinhoff’s biggest shareholder when he agreed to sell Pepkor, Africa’s biggest clothing chain, to the company in 2014.
The Public Investment Corp, which manages South African government worker pensions, is another major Steinhoff shareholder and its stake has lost more than $1 billion in value. The PIC will also appear at the hearing.
Dutch law firm BarentsKrans said Wednesday it’s starting legal proceedings on behalf of Steinhoff investors. The stock rose 0.4% to R6.83 as of 9:40 a.m. in Johannesburg.