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'No conflict of interest': Steinhoff funds NPA’s probe into its auditing scandal

The 'Financial Mail' on Friday reported that Steinhoff has agreed to give investigators from the Hawks and NPA R30 million to finance the investigation into the immense fraud at the company because the state doesn't have the budget.

FILE: Steinhoff's offices in Stellenbosch. Picture: Supplied.

JOHANNESBURG - The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) on Friday confirmed it received money from Steinhoff to assist with a forensic probe into the company's auditing scandal but insisted there was no conflict of interests and said mechanisms were in place to prevent interference.

The Financial Mail on Friday reported that Steinhoff has agreed to give investigators from the Hawks and NPA R30 million to finance the investigation into the immense fraud at the company because the state doesn't have the budget.

Steinhoff CFO Theodore de Klerk said the Hawks and NPA first approached the company to ask if PricewaterhouseCoopers, which had already completed a forensic investigation for Steinhoff, could assist the state because it didn't have the resources to probe such a complex case.

Steinhoff is accused of overstating the group's income and asset values, which resulted in CEO Markus Jooste's resignation, the company's liquidity crisis and an accounting scandal that triggered the collapse of its share price three years ago.

READ: Ex-Steinhoff CEO Jooste charged in Germany over accounting violations - report

The NPA’s Sipho Ngwema said there was no conflict of interest there.

“People must separate between the company, which is an entity and also a victim of some of the things that happened to the company that led to its collapse. So, they want to get to the bottom of things and in that regard, our interest are aligned. But it doesn’t mean that in the course of the criminal investigation you must add the complainant as one of the suspects. We are not going to do that, so there is no conflict.”

Meanwhile, the Hawks insists receiving money from a company its investigating will not compromise the probe.

The Hawks say if financial assistance was offered to further an investigation, the Hawks would consider it but they insist accepting the money won't compromise the integrity of their work.

Spokesperson Katlego Mogale said: “It is also common that in some of these cases, the complainant would have engaged the service of forensic auditors to establish if there is any crime committed before they report the matter to the police. In such instances, the DPCI do consider retaining the services it already worked on, on the matter.”

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