Steinhoff 'fraud' hard to detect - Christo Wiese

Image: Frikkie Kapp/BackpagePix

Detecting fraud within a company was hugely difficult for board members‚ especially if the CEO was allegedly involved‚ Steinhoff shareholder and respected South African businessman Christo Wiese said in Parliament on Wednesday.

Wiese was replying to questions by MPs as to why the Steinhoff board was "asleep at the wheel" while alleged accounting irregularities were being committed and had failed in its fiduciary duties.

"I can only say that cleverer people than this board have been duped before by people committing fraud. I can only refer to many instances around the world of companies of a similar or bigger size where this has happened.

"To detect fraud in a company is an extremely difficult if not impossible task and it becomes more difficult when‚ as is alleged in this case‚ the CEO is directly involved‚" Wiese said.

He was referring to former Steinhoff CEO Markus Jooste who has been reported to the Hawks for alleged contraventions of the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Practices Act.

Until the report of forensic investigators PwC was finalised‚ it was not possible to say how the alleged accounting irregularities had occurred‚ Wiese said.

Wiese and a delegation of Steinhoff executives appeared at a hearing into the Steinhoff scandal‚ which was held by three parliamentary committees — finance‚ public accounts and public service and administration.

Wiese emphasised that Steinhoff‚ which operates in 33 different countries‚ was an immensely complicated business‚ with a multitude of subsidiary companies. The only way to run such a group was in a decentralised manner‚ with different companies in the different countries.

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