Home » Ex-Steinhoff CFO in court after South African tycoon Markus Jooste’s death

Ex-Steinhoff CFO in court after South African tycoon Markus Jooste’s death

Former Steinhoff CFO appears in court; investigation continues after Markus Jooste’s death.

by Omokolade Ajayi
Markus Jooste

Key Points:

  • Ben la Grange, former CFO of Steinhoff, granted bail and will return to court on Oct. 4. He intends to cooperate fully with the legal process.
  • La Grange fined R2 million ($110,000) by JSE in 2022 for issuing a false €23.5 million ($25.1 million) invoice.
  • FSCA continues Steinhoff investigation post-Markus Jooste’s death, aiming to recover $25 million penalty.

Three months after the tragic passing of South African businessman Markus Jooste, a central figure in one of the country’s biggest corporate scandals, Ben la Grange, the former chief financial officer of Steinhoff International Holdings NV, appeared in a South African court.

Ben la Grange granted bail, to return in October

According to a Bloomberg report, La Grange appeared at the Pretoria Specialised Commercial Crimes Court on Wed., June 26, with former legal head Stehan Grobler. La Grange was granted bail of R150,000 ($8,246). Both are scheduled to return to court on Oct. 4. La Grange’s lawyer said he intends to cooperate with the legal process and declined further comment.

In 2022, La Grange was fined R2 million ($110,000) by the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) for violating listing rules. The fine related to a handwritten document given to him by Jooste, from which La Grange generated a €23.5 million ($25.1 million) invoice. The JSE stated that La Grange didn’t exercise due care and skill, although he was unaware the income was false at the time.

FSCA reaffirms commitment to investigation

In March, less than 24 hours after Markus Jooste’s passing, the Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA) confirmed it would continue its investigation into the Steinhoff scandal. The FSCA stated Jooste’s death would not hinder its pursuit of justice and reiterated its intention to recover a $25 million penalty from his estate.

The FSCA asserted that the investigation would continue as there are other involved parties. The Authority will also assist the Hawks and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) with any ongoing investigations.

Markus Jooste’s legacy and the Steinhoff scandal

Markus Jooste rose to prominence as the CEO of Steinhoff, a multinational retail giant. He played a pivotal role in transforming the company into a major global market player. However, his reputation was tarnished when allegations of accounting fraud surfaced, leading to a dramatic downfall for both Jooste and Steinhoff.

The scandal, which unfolded over several years, involved accusations of balance sheet fraud and false financial reporting. In March 2021, Jooste and three of his colleagues were charged by German prosecutors in connection with fraudulent activities dating back to 2010. These charges further escalated the legal troubles facing Jooste and added to the mounting pressure on Steinhoff.

The repercussions of the scandal were severe, resulting in significant financial losses for investors and employees alike. Steinhoff’s market capitalization plunged from $25 billion to a mere $4.5 million, ultimately leading to its delisting from the JSE in October 2023.

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