On Tuesday morning, the Hawks started rounding up several implicated individuals, in the case of the disappearance of over R2 billion, which led to the liquidation of VBS bank.
Seven suspects were arrested and will appear in the Palmridge Regional Court on Thursday, while an eighth has been found to be in quarantine due to Covid-19 infection. Three further suspects are expected to be arrested before then.
National Director of Public Prosecutions advocate Shamila Batohi is briefing the country on the progress of the prosecutions at the moment, along with the National Head of the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (Dr/Adv) Lieutenant General Godfrey Lebeya.
Watch the video below courtesy of the SABC:
Batohi said the criminal justice system owed it to the elderly who had their money invested in the bank and who lost it all during the liquidation, to ensure justice was served.
“Today’s operation and developments marks a key milestone in achieving that objective.”
She said the investigations which started in August 2018 were relatively short and lauded the Hawks for how they handled the probe.
“Whilst the pressure to prosecute these cases is understandably enormous, believe me, I feel it, and given the pervasive culture of impunity that this country has sadly become accustomed to in recent times and which almost entrenched itself, it must be borne in mind that quality investigations regrettably need time and patients,” she said.
“We do not ensure that we deliver on all front. Given what this country is emerging from, I feel and share the impatience of the public for justice. But we want to assure the people that there are so many behind the scenes that are hard at work under very challenging circumstances, that the wheels of justice are turning, and the rule of law will prevail. Our actions will indeed speak for themselves.”
The fraud case caused outrage across the country after it was revealed how easily money was being looted from the bank and used to finance the extravagant lifestyles of the beneficiaries of the fraud.
It was found during the investigation that twenty municipalities deposited an amount of R3.7 billion in VBS. R2.2 billion was paid back, leaving an amount of R1.5 billion in the bank.
These municipal deposits were found to have been made illegally, and the Treasury had warned municipalities that investments in mutual banks went against the prescripts of the Municipal Finance Management Act. No municipal officials have faced any sanction as yet.
Batohi was admant though that “… the country may rest assured that we will certainly prosecute wherever the evidence takes us. I’m not going to outline any particular category of persons, but if there is evidence of criminality and we are satisfied that the relevant threshold for the probability of a successful prosecution has been met, we will prosecute wherever that takes us.”
Lebeya said the current arrests only involved those within the bank, who facilitated the theft. He did not exclude the possibility of municipal officials, saying there will still be further legs to the investigation.
He said: “Investigations remain at a sensitive stage.”The investigations have not concluded, the Hawks would continue with more investigations on the matter.”
In response to a question regarding media reports into where money looted from the bank flowed to, Lebeya replied that while the Hawks took these reports into account, they cannot be entered as evidence in a court, as this requires proof beyond any doubt.
Asked if EFF deputy president Floyd Shivambu has been in contact with the Hawks, Lebeya said he could not confirm the content of discussions with Shivambu.
He was at pains to stress that the Hawks “are not investigating any specific person,” but were guided by the evidence and the crime committed.
Among those expected to be arrested is former VBS and Vele Investments chairperson Tshifhiwa Matodzi, the alleged kingpin of the theft of depositor’s funds from the bank.
Of the R2 billion that was taken, Vele allegedly received R936 million, which was used to purchase several other companies.
Matodzi himself, forensic investigations found, received R325 million.
Most of the funds stolen represent investments made by numerous local and district municipalities from around the country.
** This article was updated throughout the briefing.