July 18, 2019

South African police asks Interpol to help with Steinhoff

The South Africa Police Service (SAPS) has asked Interpol to help investigate financial wrongdoing at Steinhoff International Holdings after the global retailer reported a hole in its accounts and the share price collapsed.

The international organisation could help connect the dots at the owner of Conforama in France and Mattress Firm in the US, which is being investigated by regulators in Germany and the Netherlands and a host of law enforcement agencies. At the centre of the scandal is former Chief Executive Officer Markus Jooste, who quit when the crisis erupted in December. Hes already been referred by Steinhoff to the Hawks, an investigative unit of the SAPS.

There are three existing charges related to Steinhoff and while suspects have not yet been named, the police “have got an idea” who they are, Godfrey Lebeya, head of the Hawks, told lawmakers in Cape Town on Wednesday. In June, Minister of Police Bheki Cele said cases related to the company included accusations of fraud, theft, extortion and forgery.

The retailer remains in business after winning support from creditors to restructure about EUR 9 billion ($10.2 billion) of debt last month, despite writing off the value of its assets by more than EUR 12 billion.

Auditors at PwC are probing the accounts and are expected to publish a report by the end of the year.

The Hawks have also probed the collapse of VBS Mutual Bank, which failed in March, and there are five cases and at least three suspects related to the lender, Lebeya said. About ZAR 311 million ($22 million) went missing from the company, according to the investigations, he said.

VBSs administrator has accused five bankers of syphoning off at least ZAR 1.5 billion from the lender, which was the seventh-smallest of South Africas 21 banks.

Original Article

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