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WATCH: Ex-Steinhoff chief executive Markus Jooste dies of gunshot wound

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WATCH: Ex-Steinhoff chief executive Markus Jooste dies of gunshot wound

Former Steinhoff boss Markus Jooste, who was at the heart of South Africa’s largest corporate fraud, has died of a gunshot wound, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

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Jooste’s death comes a day after the country’s financial regulator issued a record individual fine against the 63-year-old of R475mn ($25mn) for publishing false financial statements between 2014 and 2017.

People with knowledge of Jooste’s legal problems said he was facing the prospect of arrest in South Africa, in addition to an arrest warrant for fraud in Germany.

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Steinhoff, once the second-largest furniture distributor in Europe with brands including French retailer Conforama and UK retailer Poundland, was plunged into a crisis in 2017 over irregular accounting. The company subsequently lost 98 per cent of its market value. Last year creditors took it over and delisted it from the Johannesburg Stock Exchange.

Colonel Andrè Traut, spokesperson for Western Cape police, said in a statement that a 63-year-old man had allegedly “sustained a gunshot wound” in Hermanus, a coastal town south of Cape Town, and had died on his way to hospital. Traut declined to identify the person. He added that “no foul play is suspected” and an inquest docket has been opened.

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Two police insiders said the victim was Jooste and that the gunshot appeared to have been self-inflicted.

The Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA) said on Wednesday that Jooste “made or published false, misleading or deceptive statements about Steinhoff” while engineering transactions with “no economic substance”.

This dishonesty “misled the market into believing Steinhoff International was more profitable, more cash positive and more resourced than what was indeed the case”, it added.

Investigators at PwC said in 2019 that Steinhoff’s financial statements had been boosted by €6.5bn in “fictitious or irregular” transactions over more than a decade.

“A small group of Steinhoff Group former executives and other non Steinhoff executives, led by a senior management executive, structured and implemented various transactions over a number of years which had the result of substantially inflating the profit and asset values of the group over an extended period,” the PwC investigators said.

The Steinhoff board later confirmed to parliament that Jooste was the senior executive named.

Jooste resigned in the wake of the scandal and was later referred by Steinhoff to South Africa’s anti-corruption police.

Additional reporting by Monica Mark in Johannesburg and Joseph Cotterill in London.

 

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