Steinhoff declined to comment on the forestry transactions, saying it is awaiting the outcome of the PwC probe.
Since December the global retailer has been selling assets and trying to persuade creditors owed more than 9 billion euros ($10.6 billion) not to force it into insolvency. With the equivalent of almost $17 billion having been wiped off its market value, the saga has become one of South Africa’s biggest-ever corporate scandals.
Steinhoff’s venture into forestry came shortly after Jooste, 57, became managing director in 2000. The company began buying assets to produce the timber needed for the furniture it sold, annual reports show.
Steinhoff agreed in 2001 to pay 15.8 million rand ($1.1 million) for trademarks, vehicles and equipment owned by forestry companies Thesen & Co (Pty) Ltd. and Thesen Properties (Pty) Ltd., sales agreements seen by Bloomberg show. The deal did not include any Thesen plantations and instead Thesen sold 55 properties to Malenge Sawmills (Pty) Ltd., which took a loan from Steinhoff to help with the 29.5 million-rand purchase, according to tax court documents and sales agreements seen by Bloomberg.
Steinhoff managed the plantations that Malenge bought. In 2004, Steinhoff bought 53 of those plantations from Malenge, by then known as Kota Sawmills (Pty) Ltd., for 159.7 million rand, court documents and company minutes seen by Bloomberg show.