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Former Steinhoff managers charged in German fraud case

German prosecutors have charged four people over alleged fraud at embattled retail giant Steinhoff, with local media reporting that the group’s former chief executive is among those targeted.

Three former managers are accused of “fictitious transactions” worth more than 1.5 billion euros ($1.8 billion), as well as overvaluing real estate by 820 million euros, prosecutors in the city of Oldenburg told AFP on Friday.

Prosecutors did not name the suspects, but German media reported that Markus Jooste, the former chief executive of Steinhoff, is among those charged.

A fourth defendant is accused of aiding and abetting the fraud in several cases, the prosecutors said.

Steinhoff was hit by a huge scandal in 2017 when it was investigated on suspicion of fraud, with a reported six billion euro hole in its accounts.

The company, which is listed in both Frankfurt and Johannesburg, saw nearly 98 percent of its share value wiped out as it faced a barrage of litigation from aggrieved shareholders and business partners, including former chairman Christo Wiese.

Jooste resigned after the scandal broke but denied all knowledge of accounting fraud.

Steinhoff was fined 13.5 million rand ($818,000) by the Johannesburg Stock Exchange in October for breaching listing requirements including publishing “false and misleading” information.