Strangest part of the new Steinhoff Eight is those not included

Yesterday in SA’s Parliament, newly appointed CEO of Steinhoff, former Werksmans senior partner Louis du Preez, reluctantly named eight people involved in the gigantic corporate Ponzi scheme. Of the eight, two were among the Dirty Half Dozen that I proposed in Monday’s newsletter – bossman Markus Jooste and former CFO of the European operations Dirk Schreiber.

Of the six other names given to lawmakers, four were so-called “third parties” involved in the shell companies where the false profits were created. It was mildly surprising to see insiders Ben la Grange (former CFO) and treasury chief Stehan Grobler being named. Because both were specifically exonerated by Jooste in his mea culpa SMS to staff the day he departed, where he listed a small group of his close confidants who he said knew nothing about his “big mistake”. Indeed, both la Grange and Grobler were only suspended from duty eight months into the PwC investigation.

Even more surprising was the omission to Parliament of four members named in my Dirty Half Dozen – executives who had worked at Steinhoff far longer and were much closer to Jooste – and also departed around the same time he did. Only time will tell whether not being named in Parliament means they are “clean”. For instance, the PwC report refers to wide-scale backdating of legal contracts with shells used to create false profits – yet the group’s legal counsel Dup du Plessis, Jooste’s close pal, wasn’t among those named in Parliament.

What we do know, though, is the PwC report tells us at least one member of the former executive team has been helping the investigators. And that new CEO Du Preez was extremely reluctant to give any names, fretting that it might affect the criminal cases. It seems rational, therefore, that he would hold something back. The Steinhoff saga still has a long way to go.