Now that Markus Jooste is dead, will justice prevail?

Former CEO of Steinhoff, Markus Jooste, whose death has left many with more questions than answers. Picture Henk Kruger/Independent Newspapers

Former CEO of Steinhoff, Markus Jooste, whose death has left many with more questions than answers. Picture Henk Kruger/Independent Newspapers

Published Mar 24, 2024


On the evening of Human Rights Day, the nation received the news that the ringleader of the famous Steinhoff International scandal, Markus Jooste, died.

Jooste’s passing came after the Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA) imposed the R475 million penalty on him upon concluding that he contributed to the publication of misleading or deceptive financial statements about the company.

The mastermind behind the massive fraud that took place at Steinhoff is believed to have killed himself.

The South African Police Services (SAPS) told “Business Report”, “We can confirm that Hermanus SAPS opened an inquest docket for further investigation following the death of a 63-year-old man. Police were activated to attend to a shooting incident at about 2.40pm at Kwaaiwater Beach in Hermanus. The deceased succumbed to a fatal gunshot wound to the head shortly after arrival at a private hospital.”

The FSCA’s penalty came after Deloitte confirmed that Steinhoff had falsified its financial statements and the JSE fined Jooste about $880 000 (R16.5m) for violations of its listing regulations, while the SARB, in 2021, seized assets worth up to R1.4 billion from Steinhoff and from Jooste’s family trust. Jooste was also barred from holding office in listed companies for a period of 20 years.

Steinhoff International was liquidated last year after the accounting scandal brought it to its knees.

In 2017, news broke of the country’s biggest corporate fraud amounting to €6.5bn (R134bn), which was explained as an accounting error.

The fraud also cost the Public Investment Corporation close to R21bn of investments.

The share price of Steinhoff then fell exponentially.

The Steinhoff crash wiped billions off the JSE, the net worth of tycoon Christo Wiese and the pension funds of ordinary South Africans.

The disgraced Jooste, at the time of his death, was under investigation by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) in a criminal case, in which he faced penalties of up to R15 million, or 10 years’ imprisonment, or both.

His death now leaves the financial world with more questions, as many who were hoping to see justice prevail have now been left to wonder if that will ever happen.

Rob Rose, journalist and author of the book “Steinheist”, told “Business Report” on Friday that Jooste’s death was a big setback for accountability.

Rose said, “It’s a big setback for accountability since so many pensioners and investors lost money — in all, the Steinhoff stock lost more than R200bn — so people wanted to get to the bottom of how that happened, and why. And Jooste’s death means they now risk not getting a full picture. Also, you’d imagine the NPA will still try to prosecute others who were part of the fraud. It is critical that they’re seen to be acting in the Steinhoff case. But after Jooste’s death, the investigators will probably have to regroup and consider their strategy.”

James Styan, who authored the book “Steinhoff Inside SA's Biggest Corporate Crash”, told “Business Report” that a lot of information from the Steinhoff saga still needed to be made public.

Styan said, “The first place that we need to start at is demanding that the PwC report into the Steinhoff scandal be made public. There were only about 11 pages released from PwC’s investigation from a report that has about 3 000 pages.”

He further said that Jooste’s death now made it more difficult to find out who else was implicated in the fraud that occurred at Steinhoff.

Styan said, “The crime that took place was on such a large scale and on an international level. There is no way that it was just one person behind it all. No other names jump out at the moment, which also shows you how the case was being investigated. The justice department, which is badly resourced, has to look into the matter further.

“The Hawks put their eggs all in one basket and went after Jooste. I do hope that that there are other people who will be looking into the matter. Back in 2017 when the story broke, there was no auditor as part of the commercial crimes unit, which showed how poorly resourced the department was.

“One must not forget that there were many victims in this story. A lot of blue-collar workers employed by the government lost a lot of money. I know of people who committed suicide because they could simply just not cope with losing their pensions. It was a tragedy all around and I do hope that more can be uncovered so justice may prevail,” Styan said.

On Friday, the FSCA said it had noted the death of Jooste and it would not have an impact on its investigation.

In a statement, the FSCA said, “The investigation will continue as there are other investigated parties involved. The Authority will also continue to assist the Hawks and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) with any investigations they may have underway.

“As the penalty on the late Jooste in his personal capacity was already imposed at the time of his death, his passing does not impact on the penalty. The FSCA is legally entitled to recover the penalty from the estate of the late Jooste. Whether the Authority will claim against the estate will be decided at the appropriate time, taking into account all the relevant circumstances.”