In the process surrounding the balance sheet scandal at the Steinhoff furniture group, two former managers of the group have been convicted. A 52-year-old defendant faces a three-year and six-month sentence for misrepresentation in two counts of financial statements and for aiding and abetting credit fraud, the presiding judge at the Oldenburg Regional Court said.
Because the procedure was delayed, one year is considered to have been executed. A 64-year-old was sentenced to two years' probation for two counts of misrepresentation. The verdict is not yet legally binding.
Before the verdict, the accused expressed regret over the crimes. The 52-year-old said he never found the strength to get out. Later he did everything to clarify the events. After serving the sentence, he wanted a new life without Steinhoff.
The disclosure of the balance sheet manipulations almost completely destroyed the company's stock market value in 2017. Steinhoff has its roots in Westerstede in Lower Saxony. Steinhoff International Holdings, which operates worldwide, now has its headquarters in Amsterdam and is controlled from South Africa.
Four people have to answer in court
The process started in April of this year. In addition to the two executives charged were former Steinhoff International Holdings CEO Markus Jooste and a trustee. The two convicted managers were managing directors of the subsidiary Steinhoff Europe Group Services from Westerstede.
Jooste did not appear at the start of the trial. The court then stayed the case against him and requested an arrest warrant against him. The proceedings against the trustee were dropped in exchange for a payment. According to the court, the entire procedure has not yet been concluded with Monday's verdict. The investigation into Jooste is only suspended until a trial can be held against him.
Before the verdict, the public prosecutor's office confirmed that the accused had a high level of criminal energy in the closing speeches. The actions, if you include the statute of limitations, would have had a total impact of more than 2.3 billion euros. A prison sentence of four years and six months had been demanded for the 52-year-old and one of three years for the 64-year-old.
For the defenders, Jooste is the head of the scandal
The defense attorneys agreed with the statements of the prosecutors in places. A defense attorney for the 52-year-old said the main person responsible for the proceedings was Jooste, who did not turn himself in. "He's the real mastermind." A defender of the 64-year-old also spoke of a system that Jooste created.
The Oldenburg public prosecutor's office is responsible for enforcing the arrest warrant against Jooste. When asked, she stated that she could not provide any information on the status of the process for reasons of investigative tactics.
Steinhoff, set up by Bruno Steinhoff from Westerstede, was long considered Europe's second largest furniture group. In Germany, the company was known for the Poco chain, which has since been sold to its competitor XXXLutz.