Molefe Seeletsa
Digital Journalist
4 minute read
15 Mar 2022
2:10 pm

MP turns up the heat and grills NPA over Steinhoff probe in Parliament

Molefe Seeletsa

The NPA as well as Hawks have been conducting investigations into Steinhoff.

Former Steinhoff CEO Markus Jooste appears before several committees in Parliament on 5 September 2018 in Cape Town. Picture: Gallo Images / Brenton Geach

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) was grilled in Parliament about its slow pace to deal with prosecutions.

The NPA briefed Parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) on Tuesday regarding cases, which were referred by the Special Investigating Unit (SIU).

During the virtual meeting, Democratic Alliance (DA) MP, Robert Lees, raised concerns about the NPA’s failure to prosecute high profile cases.

“I think we should be supportive of the work that has been done, but having said that… what South Africans are looking for is significant numbers of high level successful prosecutions and convictions. While it’s important to understand the processes that have to be followed, the reality is that we aren’t seeing [these] prosecutions and convictions,” he said.

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Lees continued to asked Hawks about the progress on the investigations into Steinhoff.

“Perhaps general, you could tell me how far you have got in prosecuting anyone in the Steinhoff matter, but more particularly the fellow from Hermanus, Mr Jooste.”

The NPA and Hawks have been conducting investigations into Steinhoff after an audit investigation found the company had allegedly been inflating its profits from 2009 to 2017.

Steinhoff was left on the brink of collapse after the company’s share price plunging to record lows due to the accounting scandal, which emerged in December 2017.

‘Complex matters’

NPA head Shamila Batohi responded to Lees, saying that “a lot of work is still under investigation”, adding that National Treasury was working with the agency to address its budget challenges.

“It’s the complex matters which Mr Lees talked about that are the ones that are really giving us the challenges,” Batohi said.

“I agree we cannot have cases that go on indefinitely, and we must try to ensure that even in the c we bring them to court as quickly as we can,” she added.

READ MORE: Court approves Steinhoff’s R25 billion settlement

Meanwhile, Hawks head, Godfrey Lebeya provided an update on the Steinhoff matter.

“There have been developments with regards to the review or appeal [that is] part of the matters that the Financial Sector [Conduct] Authority [FSCA] took to the Tribunal.

The Hawks have been in the process of seeking witness statements and banks statements from foreign countries under mutual legal assistance compact as part of its Steinhoff investigation.

Fine appeal

In December last year, Financial Services Tribunal upheld the FSCA’s finding that former Steinhoff CEO Markus Jooste contravened Section 78(5) of the Financial Markets Act (FMA) for sharing insider trading information.

Jooste had taken the FSCA to the Tribunal after he was fined R161 million in October 2020.

The former Steinhoff boss was fined after the FCSA found that he had shared insider information with four people in 2017.

Jooste was said to have sent an SMS to the four people encouraging them to sell their Steinhoff shares.

Although the Tribunal ruled that Jooste contravened law by encouraging the trade of shares while he had inside information, it overturned the R161 million fine against the form Steinhoff boss.

ALSO READ: 8 things you didn’t know about former Steinhoff CEO Markus Jooste

The Tribunal referred the determination of an “appropriate penalty” to the FSCA.

While Jooste is facing a criminal probe by Hawks, he is being investigated in Germany for fraud and money laundering because Steinhoff is listed on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange (FSE).

The former Steinhoff boss – in March last year – was charged with balance sheet fraud after the prosecutor’s office in the city of Oldenburg in Germany completed its six-year investigation.

At the time, Steinhoff also agreed to give the NPA and Hawks R30 million in an effort to complete their investigations into the company.

Additional reporting by Ina Opperman