Business Maverick

Business Maverick

Ex-Steinhoff Europe CFO Says He Knew About Sham Deals at Scandal-Hit Retailer

Ex-Steinhoff Europe CFO Says He Knew About Sham Deals at Scandal-Hit Retailer
A company sign stands above the Steinhoff International Holdings NV company headquarters in Stellenbosch, South Africa, on Monday, May 14, 2018. Until December, Heather Sonn was running a small investment firm in Cape Town. Then an accounting scandal erupted at Steinhoff and she was tapped to chair the board.

Steinhoff International Holdings NV’s ex-head of finance in Europe said he knew about sham deals at the retailer and intends to give German prosecutors more evidence to bolster their case, making him the first person connected to scandal-hit firm to admit to such wrongdoing.

Dirk Schreiber has told a German court that he shouldn’t have accounted for the bogus business deals, according to a spokesperson at the regional court in Oldenburg. Schreiber is scheduled to appear in court again with co-accused Siegmar Schmidt on June 19, the court said in a statement on Wednesday.

The two men were among eight people that were named by the company in 2019 following a forensic probe by auditor PwC that uncovered €6.5 billion ($7 billion) of irregular transactions with eight firms over eight years.

Markus Jooste, Steinhoff’s ex-Chief Executive Officer, failed to show up to his German trial in April and now prosecutors are weighing whether to issue an arrest warrant for the 62-year-old.

Jooste has only appeared once to answer questions about the global retailer’s near-collapse, when in 2018 he told lawmakers in Cape Town that it stems from a protracted dispute with a former partner.

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Schmidt, who previously told the court he always thought the transactions were valid and he acted on orders by Jooste, has now said he’d like to take part in talks with prosecutors, according to the statement. Schreiber has additionally been charged with credit fraud and said he intends to comment on that during the next meetings.

German authorities first searched the offices of Steinhoff Europe Group Services GmbH in 2015 — two years before the parent company’s demise — and only a couple of days before the retailer’s listing on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange.

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