Jooste, who was instrumental in transforming Steinhoff from a small Johannesburg furniture outfit into a multinational retailer, had been handed a hefty fine for accounting fraud on Wednesday.

Police said an inquest case docket had been registered following the death of a 63-year-old man. They did not name the deceased.

"It is alleged that the victim sustained a gunshot wound at around 1520 (local time) at Kwaaiwater and succumbed to death on his way to hospital," Western Cape police spokesperson Colonel Andre Traut said in a statement, referring to a suburb of the coastal town of Hermanus near Cape Town.

Traut said police were investigating the circumstances, adding that no foul play was suspected.

Citing sources, South African broadcaster Newzroom Afrika said Jooste shot himself during an arrest. The Financial Times said Jooste had died of a gunshot wound, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

Reuters could not independently verify the reports.

South Africa's Financial Sector Conduct Authority fined Jooste 475 million rand ($25.2 million) on Wednesday for publishing false and misleading Steinhoff annual financial statements and annual reports for the 2014 to 2016 years and the 2017 half-year.

Steinhoff revealed holes in its accounts in December 2017, the first sign of an accounting fraud that led to the near-collapse of the retail group, which is the majority owner of South African and European discount retailers Pepkor and Pepco.

Steinhoff has suffered hefty losses and a stream of lawsuits since then.

Jooste told a South African parliamentary inquiry in 2018 that he was not aware of any accounting irregularities when he left the retailer in December 2017.

He had also been under fraud investigation by South African police.

($1 = 18.8497 rand)

(Additional reporting by Wendell Roelf in Cape Town; Editing by Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo and Rosalba O'Brien)

By Nqobile Dludla