SARB’s asset attachment raid – Markus Jooste confidante with back story on why it happened, what it means for ex-Steinhoff CEO

The subject of this interview, Rian du Plessis, says he remains close to ostracised former Steinhoff CEO Markus Jooste and is well known in SA business circles, as a former executive at RMB, and CEO of two JSE-listed groups, Comparex and Phumelela. Du Plessis also serves as one of two external trustees on the Jooste family trust Silveroak, in which capacity he was named in the Anton Pillar court order requested by and granted to the SA Reserve Bank, resulting in this week’s raid on Jooste’s assets. He explains to Alec Hogg of BizNews why the SARB’s raid was such a surprise, what the attachment of Jooste-owned properties, motor vehicles, art, furniture and Mrs J’s jewellery means, and what comes next. Du Plessis also shares his perspective after watching the Steinheist mini-series, currently airing on Showmax.

Excerpts from the interview with Rian du Plessis

Rian du Plessis on what exactly the Reserve Bank wants

My reading of it, and I’m by no means a lawyer, but the way that I read it is the Reserve Bank brought an application, which is called an Anton Piller application, that entitles them to attach assets and do a search of homes and business premises, etc. so as to obtain information that might aid them in their investigation. And it’s my understanding this is what happened as a non-legal person. Again, I have to say that it seems as though an independent forensic expert was authorised to access the premises of the Jooste family home and Lanzerac to obtain a mirror, images of computers, etc.. And then the respondents are given five days to furnish reasons why the forensic expert shouldn’t give the information to the Reserve Bank’s investigating team. That is my understanding of what’s happened here. 

On how he became trustee of the Jooste family trust

Our relationship was one of a personal nature and never of a business nature. He contacted me after the Steinhoff bomb burst. I believe it’s referred to as a lightning bolt from the blue. He said, “Look, if something were to happen to me, would you please make sure Ingrid and the children and my son-in-law are looked after just from an oversight point of view and as a trustee. You will recall, at that time I was also still CEO of Phumelela and the whole collapse of Steinhoff also had a repercussion completely on an indirect basis because Marcus was one of the biggest and certainly the biggest horse owner and the controlling shareholder of the biggest breeding operation in the country. So, the possibility became real when Absa and Investec obtained a provisional liquidation order against Mayfair, the possibility of an auction sale of 500 horses, and the implications of that in terms of owners, trainers, etc. and the humane impact on horses that might need to be put down. You know, people think the horse racing fraternity is well-to-do, but very few trainers who  can actually withstand not being paid for two months. And they need to then start selling horses. Those horses that cannot be sold must be put down. If these horses, these expensive horses, are sold at auction at a high value, the people who own the other horses would have to sell them because they cannot afford the double training fees. 

I had some concern, from a professional point of view, over and above my personal relationship with Marcus, and hence I approached the three major creditors – Sanlam, Absa and Investec – and I explained that a liquidation serves nobody’s purpose, it’s a disorderly firesale and everybody loses. I proposed a court sanctioned process under the auspices of a majority of independent directors so that the assets could be sold in a controlled manner, with the likelihood that the banks get paid in full. The indication at the time was that, at face value, there were assets of R1.6 billion and a debt of about R2 billion. It looked as though if an orderly sale took place, the banks could save the day for the horse racing industry. The banks would get paid in full and that there might be something left for the family, which was the personal side of my involvement. I had not been involved with Steinhoff at all. I have no idea what went on at Steinhoff and quite, quite candidly in my role as trustee, where I am to look after and mentor the children and make sure that Ingrid is okay. That goes far beyond my role. Quite honestly, I don’t want to get involved in that. That is for the courts and for Steinhoff and whomever gets behind it. And it’s for Marcus to answer. 

On the state of mind of Markus Jooste during these recent developments

Look, I think anybody who spends most of their day with lawyers defending themselves would not be of the finest of minds. But Markus is strong and is determined to seek his day in court. He’s under strict advice from his lawyers not to reply to the press and play a press game, andto answer for each allegation as it is made to them in the appropriate forum. I believe that is sound advice. I reiterate, I have no idea about what he has done and if he has done something as untoward as the media is making it out to be, as it appears to be. He  must answer in the appropriate forum for it; he’s either guilty or not guilty. But that’s not for me to answer. That’s for Markus to answer. He has  taken advice from highly qualified and expensive legal people. I believe that is what the Constitution also allows him to do: to answer in the appropriate forum.

On his thoughts on the Steinheist documentary 

You know there are some really serious allegations made there and really, really serious matters to be answered. But they need to be answered in the appropriate forum. Not to me and not to you. I think what we could all be doing is urging the authorities to speed up the process because justice delayed is justice undone. Or denied, I think. I think everybody should pull together and say, let’s get these. Why is there not, after five years, not a single criminal charge laid. Have you heard of one that’s been laid? Not one. So it is odd.  

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