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Steinhoff Pair Face Trial Over Alleged $1.7 Billion Fraud

Former Steinhoff CEO Markus Jooste appears before several committees in Parliament on September 05, 2018 in Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo: Gallo Images / Brenton Geach)
By Bloomberg
19 Oct 2021 0

Two people charged over the accounting scandal at furniture retailer Steinhoff International Holdings NV must stand trial in Germany.

The Oldenburg Regional Court ruled on Monday that the charges against the pair can go to trial. Meanwhile, cases of two other executives who are living abroad should be handled separately, the tribunal said in an emailed statement.

While the court didn’t identify the accused, the facts depicted in the statement show the cases concern Stellenbosch, South Africa-based Steinhoff. The charges against the people living outside Germany were split off to avoid delays due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the court said.

The four men were charged in November 2020. Among them is former Chief Executive Officer Markus Jooste, a person familiar with the investigation said earlier this year. Jooste’s German lawyer declined to comment on the ruling.

The company, which has its primary listing in Frankfurt and a second in Johannesburg, also declined to comment.

The charges allege that fake proceeds from bogus transactions were booked at some of the group’s units. The sham deals made it seem that assets were sold to third parties while they were in fact acquired by other companies close to the group, according to prosecutors. The court hasn’t yet scheduled trial dates.

Artificial transactions were allegedly used to manipulate balance sheets by more than 1.5 billion euros ($1.7 billion). Additionally, the value of real estate assets was inflated by 820 million euros, prosecutors have said. While the charges cover a period from July 2011 to January 2015, the court threw out one count dating back to July 2011, saying it is barred by a statute of limitation.


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