Steinhoff chief executive officer Louis du Preez told investors there are two things he’s pressed about the most after the retailer’s near collapse: Can we see the full forensic report and when will ex-CEO Markus Jooste be arrested?
The first relates to an in-depth investigation by PwC into an accounting scandal that erupted in late 2017. The results of the probe were delayed several times as even the sharpest financial minds struggled with the complexity of the task.
Steinhoff finally published a mere 10-page summary – though more detail was included in subsequent audited results.
The second question refers to the fate of Jooste, the executive identified by Steinhoff as most responsible for the layers of third-party transactions and inflated numbers behind alleged financial wrongdoing. While the South African company is seeking more than 850 million rand ($56 million) from the 58-year-old in a legal challenge, he hasn’t been charged and denies wrongdoing.
So how does the CEO answer?
The full PwC report needs to be kept confidential for Steinhoff’s own legal cases, Du Preez said in a presentation in Cape Town on Tuesday. While the financial investigation is largely complete, further probes are ongoing into the role of third parties, he said.
As for Jooste, it’s not the company’s job to start criminal proceedings. Steinhoff is co-operating with authorities and has almost daily contact with South African regulators, but its remit only goes so far, Du Preez said.
The CEO then handed over to Alex Watson, a supervisory board member and former professor of accounting at the University of Cape Town. Steinhoff’s accounts were the “most complex financial statements you could ever imagine preparing,” she said.
“It was the longest audit opinion ever seen,” the professor said. “Students will be studying this for years.”