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Why former Steinhoff CEO Markus Jooste is refusing to go to Parliament

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Steinhoff executives responsible for fraud have been named

Markus Jooste refuses to appear before Parliament joint-committee’s – here’s why.

On Wednesday 28 March 2018, joint Parliament committees announced that they would be pursuing a subpoena against former Steinhoff CEO Markus Jooste. The committees are made up of finance, public accounts, trade and industry and public service and administration portfolios.

These committees sought Jooste’s presence before them as part of the Steinhoff hearings. Jooste declined to attend the first hearing in February. Parliament then invited him to a second hearing, to which his attorneys replied in a letter:

“Our client has decided to respectfully decline your invitation to appear before the three committees”.

Here are the four reasons given by Jooste’s lawyers for his non-attendance to Parliament hearings:

  1. Jooste’s resignation

Jooste’s attorneys have claimed that their client has argued that since he resigned his position as CEO back in December 2017, he ‘is not in a position meaningfully to assist the committees’ with their investigation.

  1. FSB investigation

The attorney’s letter further stated that,

“The Financial Services Board is currently in the process of investigating the Steinhoff matter. The FSB has summonsed our client in terms of the Financial Markets Act, no 19 of 2012, to be interrogated on a wide range of issues pertaining to Steinhoff.”

  1. Hawks investigation

Adding to this, the attorney’s cited the Hawks ongoing investigation into Jooste himself. They said:

“As has been widely reported in the media, various criminal complaints were lodged with the South African Police Service against our client with regard to the Steinhoff matter…the Hawks have indicated that they are investigating criminal complaints against our client. All indications are that our client will probably be prosecuted with regard to the Steinhoff matter.”

  1. Right to fair trial

Lastly, seeing that Jooste could face criminal charges, his attorneys stated that to appear before Parliament would be unfair. This was their statement;

“Appearing before the committees to be questioned on Steinhoff will, in these circumstances, undermine our client’s right to a fair trial guaranteed in section 35(3) of the Constitution.”

Parliament has since chosen to submit the subpoena for Mr Jooste. Chair of the standing committee on finance, Yunus Carrim, has said that Jooste’s excuses for not appearing are ‘lame’ and are ‘unacceptable to the committees’. He added that to ensure legal clarity, Parliament would approach the courts.

Carrim said,

‘It is possible that the court would say that Jooste’s right to a fair trial transcends Parliament’s right to summons a person to appear before it, for this reason the courts must weigh in to provide clarity’.

Since his resignation Mr Jooste has declined to speak to any media outlet. However, a personal letter written to his colleagues was leaked. In it Jooste said:

“It is time for me to move on and take the consequences of my behaviour like a man. Sorry that I have disappointed all of you and I never meant to cause any of you any harm”.

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