Chairman of scandal-tainted Steinhoff quits

South African businessman Christo Wiese has resigned as chairman of retail giant Steinhoff following an accounting scandal that has engulfed the firm, the company said Friday. Steinhoff said Wiese had quit to avoid conflicts of interest as a probe into the company’s finances was underway in Germany.

Last week Steinhoff revealed it was under criminal and tax investigations over suspicions of accounting irregularities, with a reported six billion euro (seven billion dollar) hole in its accounts. The news sent the stocks of the Frankfurt-listed firm tumbling more than 80 percent, with South African authorities, where the company has a secondary listing, calling for action against the company.

Steinhoff’s African businesses include a range of credit-based household goods retailers and the company has extensive interests in Europe, including German chain Poco and France’s Conforama. “Wiese made this offer in order to reinforce the independent governance of the company of which he is a major shareholder,” Steinhoff said a statement.

Chief executive Markus Jooste resigned last week. Wiese, 76, is one of South Africa’s richest men and owns a controling stake in Africa’s largest supermarket chain Shoprite Holdings. His son Jacob Wiese also resigned from the Steinhoff board.

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