Wiese: Steinhoff scandal came like a bolt from the blue

Christo Wiese says he became aware of problems at Steinhoff three working days before the company’s accounts had to be finalised for a board meeting last month.

FILE: Billionaire Christo Wiese. Picture: Supplied

CAPE TOWN - Former Steinhoff chairperson Christo Wiese says the crisis the company was plunged into came like a bolt from the blue.

Wiese, who is still one of Steinhoff’s biggest shareholders, was speaking at Parliament.

Three parliamentary committees are meeting with Steinhoff’s new board and top management in a bid to find out what happened.

Steinhoff had billions of dollars wiped from its market capitalisation after so-called accounting irregularities emerged and its CEO Markus Jooste resigned.

Jooste now faces a criminal investigation after the company last night laid a complaint with the Hawks in terms of the Prevention and Combatting of Corrupt Activities Act, (Preca).

South African billionaire Christo Wiese says he’d invested a total of R55 billion in Steinhoff by December last year and was unaware anything was wrong.

“Normally when you’re in a business - and you’re responsible- you can see the problems coming, you’re aware of them. The sales go down, the liquidity dries up, people start leaving the sinking ship, and you can take corrective action – but this came like a bolt out of the blue.”

Wiese says he first became aware of the difficulties the company was in three days before its accounts had to be finalised for its December board meeting.

Wiese resigned soon after the company launched a forensic investigation into the so-called accounting irregularities that prompted the resignation of Jooste. Jooste is now facing investigation by the Hawks for alleged corrupt activities.

Acting board chairperson Heather Sonn says the company is doing all it can to keep the group’s many companies going in order to restore value to shareholders. She says no jobs have been lost.

(Edited by Shimoney Regter)