Poundland owner’s ex-boss dies of gunshot wound in South Africa

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Markus Jooste, the former head of the Steinhoff retail group that was at the centre of a huge corporate fraud case in South Africa, has died.

Police said Mr Jooste succumbed to a gunshot wound in hospital, with local media reporting he shot himself at his home in the southern town of Hermanus.

“The circumstances surrounding his death are being investigated,” police spokesperson Andre Traut said.

The Steinhoff group included European retailers such as the UK’s Poundland.

Local media says Mr Jooste once had a “near-mythical” reputation as an exceptional businessman, credited with turning the small Johannesburg furniture-seller Steinhoff into a multinational retailer.

News of the 63-year-old’s death came a day after he was ordered to pay a $25m (£20m) fine – said to be the biggest in South Africa’s history.

On Friday, police said he had been notified that an arrest warrant had been issued against him shortly before he died.

The country’s financial regulator said Mr Jooste had played a role in the publishing of misleading financial statements about Steinhoff International Holdings.

Fake transactions worth $6.5bn were made by Steinhoff executives in order to inflate profits, an audit by PwC found.

Close to 98% of Steinhoff’s share value was wiped out in 2017, when the accounting scandal first broke. Those heavy losses also affected investors in South African pension funds.

Mr Jooste resigned as chief executive, but denied any knowledge of accounting fraud. He was also later fined for insider trading in 2020.

Steinhoff International Holdings is based in South Africa but also listed in Germany’s financial capital of Frankfurt.

After Mr Jooste’s no-show at a trial in Germany last April, a German court issued a warrant for his arrest in June.

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