Oldenburg Regional Court, where the Steinhoff trial is taking place.
A former top Steinhoff executive and colleague of its former CEO Markus Jooste has told a German court that he was aware of sham transactions at the furniture retailer.
Dirk Schreiber, the former managing director of Steinhoff Europe Group Services, told the Oldenburg Regional Court that the bogus business deals should not have been accounted for in Steinhoff’s books.
Oldenburg court spokesperson Isabelle Möllers told News24 that his statement to the court was brief. He is expected to give a more detailed explanation at the next hearing.
This is the first time a senior Steinhoff executive has conceded knowing about fictitious business deals at the embattled retailer.
He and his co-accused Siegmar Schmidt are each facing five charges of accounting fraud that date from between 2010 and 2012.
READ | Markus Jooste instigated R16bn swindle at Steinhoff subsidiary, say German prosecutors
German prosecutors have accused the pair of working closely with Jooste to create a web of fictitious deals that pumped false profits into the group.
The trial of the two German nationals started earlier this month; their third court hearing was on Wednesday.
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When the court last sat two weeks ago, Schmidt spoke about a “climate of fear” under Jooste, saying staff dared not speak out for fear of losing their jobs.
The ex-Steinhoff CEO has been accused of calculating upfront what profits he wanted Steinhoff to make and then demanding that revenues from its European businesses match his figures.
While Schreiber and Schmidt are facing the same accounting fraud charges as Jooste, their trial has been separated from that of their former boss.
Steinhoff court files stacked in an Oldenburg Court room on 10 May, 2023.
News24 Rob Hyde/News24
The faces of the two former Steinhoff executives – Dirk Schreiber (left) and Siegmar Schmidt – have been blurred in accordance with German law.
Markus Jooste speaks at a Parliamentary inquiry into Steinhoff in 2018.
Jooste failed to appear in court in Germany on 18 April for the start of his trial, which was set to run concurrently to that of Schmidt and Schreiber.
His legal team argued he couldn’t appear in court in person because of a 2017 agreement with the SA authorities, which forbade him from leaving South Africa.
The South African government, meanwhile, has denied placing a block on Jooste’s passport.
Coverage of the trial brought to you in partnership with Truth First, a nonprofit organisation that promotes investigative journalism.