May 18, 2020 / 2:35 PM / 2 months ago

UPDATE 1-South African retailer Steinhoff Chairwoman Heather Sonn steps down

(Adds details on Sonn, context on dealings)

May 18 (Reuters) - South Africa’s Steinhoff said on Monday Chairwoman Heather Sonn has resigned after it was revealed that she had not made proper disclosures on dealings between an investment firm she has a major stake in and a company associated with the retailer.

Sonn replaced South African tycoon Christo Wiese in 2017 after he stepped down following an accounting scandal that battered Steinhoff's shares and led to the exit of then Chief Executive Officer, Markus Jooste. (reut.rs/2ZhG9Tc)

Vice chairman Peter Wakkie said it would shortly appoint a replacement for Sonn, who had “in no way been found to have participated in the accounting irregularities at Steinhoff”.

The company said investigations dating back about two years showed that the investment firm, Gamiro Ventures, was involved in transactions with a company called Geros Financial Services, which may have been indirectly funded by Steinhoff.

“Based on what is now known to me it (the transaction) would have required certain disclosures which I would have made had I been aware thereof,” Sonn said in a statement.

Between 2017 and 2018, Gamiro bought an interest in debt collector Blake and Associates from a unit of Geros, and subsequently acquired a direct stake after Blake bought back its shares from Geros.

Blake, where Sonn was a board member between May 2017 and January 2018, was also part of a panel of external contractors for JD Group before the furniture chain became part of Steinhoff through the retailer’s unit, Pepkor.

Steinhoff said the probe suggests that Geros’ link to it makes the Geros deal a “related party transaction” that was not properly accounted for. (Reporting by Pushkala Aripaka in Bengaluru and Nqobile Dludla in Johannesburg; Editing by Shinjini Ganguli)

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