RIP: former Steinhoff CEO Markus Jooste pays the ultimate price

The former CEO of Steinhoff International, Markus Jooste. Picture: Armand Hough Independent Newspapers

The former CEO of Steinhoff International, Markus Jooste. Picture: Armand Hough Independent Newspapers

Published Mar 22, 2024


South Africa was left in a state of shock last night as reports surfaced that disgraced former CEO of Steinhoff International, Markus Jooste, has died.

He leaves his wife, Ingrid Jooste, a son and two daughters.

He lived in Stellenbosch. He died by suicide in Hermanus, where he had a permanent residence.

The mastermind behind the Steinhoff scandal – South Africa’s largest corporate fraud – shot himself as he faced imminent arrest.

The SAPS said in response to questions last night: “We can confirm that Hermanus SAPS opened an inquest docket for further investigation following the death of a 63-year old man earlier today.

“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.”

Attempts to get comment from the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) and the Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA) were unsuccessful yesterday by the time of going to print.

A source, who declined to be named, told “Business Report”: “Jooste thought he could keep the courts busy for many years.”

The death of Jooste, 63, born on January 22, 1961, comes just a day after the FSCA imposed a R475-million administrative fine on Jooste for accounting irregularities at the company – the biggest such penalty that the FSCA has imposed on an individual.

After Deloitte confirmed that Steinhoff had falsified its financial statements, 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 an 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 FSCA said on Wednesday its administrative penalty on Jooste followed a thorough investigation of the former Steinhoff top executive. The FSCA also found former Steinhoff chief finance officer, Dirk Schreiber, guilty of publishing false, misleading, or deceptive statements about the company.

FSCA commissioner Unathi Kamlana said: “The imposition of a financial penalty of R475m on Markus Jooste comes after a thorough investigation found that Jooste and Dirk Schreiber made or caused the publication of misleading statements about Steinhoff. These are statements they knew or ought to have known were false, misleading or deceptive.”

The authority found that Jooste was in contravention of the Financial Markets Act pertaining to the publication of financial statements for the period of 2014 to 2016 as well as for the 2017 half-year period. It said the Steinhoff securities which were listed on the JSE and on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange resulted in heavy losses for investors, including South African pension funds.

According to Kamlana, the FSCA was concerned that the “efficiency and integrity of financial markets” in South Africa had taken a knock from the behaviour of Jooste. For the period 2014 to 2016 and for the 2017 interim period, “the financial statements published for Steinhoff failed in material respect to provide useful information to investors, to lenders and other creditors and thereby concealing the true financial position” of Steinhoff.

“This meant that investors based their assessment of Steinhoff on false, incomplete or misleading information which resulted in material destruction of value estimated to run into hundreds of billions of rand, including losses suffered by pension funds. This type of behaviour is unacceptable, especially by senior executives,” said Kamlana.

Jooste, at the time of his death, was under investigation by the National Prosecuting Authority in a criminal case, in which he faced penalties of up to R15m or 10 years’ imprisonment, or both.

However, questions still remain unanswered about the SARB and Steinhoff cross-border transactions after news broke this month that one of its former employees allegedly facilitated billions of Steinhoff rand out of South Africa via 16 exchange control applications.

The SARB told “Business Report” this week that: “All matters related to corruption or of a criminal nature were referred to the relevant law enforcement authorities in 2022, and the matter now resides with them.”