Almost two years after an explosive report revealed how the mass looting of VBS Mutual Bank had led to the bank’s collapse, the wheels of justice appear to be picking up speed.
Seven suspects are expected to make their first appearance before a court today to answer to criminal charges relating to their alleged involvement in, as the report was titled, The Great Bank Heist.
Following a cross-province search and seizure operation spanning 10 properties in Gauteng and Limpopo, national head of the Hawks Lieutenant-General Godfrey Lebeya yesterday announced four suspects had been arrested and that another three were expected to hand themselves over by the end of the day.
An eighth suspect has been “affected by the Covid-19 quarantine requirements”, he added.
He said this suspect would be “secured after completion of the relevant processes”.
The suspects are due to appear in the Palm Ridge Regional Court on Thursday on a raft of charges, including racketeering, money laundering, theft, fraud and corruption.
Lebeya said yesterday investigations had revealed they “either unduly directly or indirectly benefited [of] at least R122,287,863 which was not due”.
In the wake of a liquidity crisis, the South African Reserve Bank placed VBS under curatorship in 2018 and instituted a forensic investigation to establish exactly what had gone wrong.
The resultant 148-page report, written in the main by advocate Terry Motau SC and titled “VBS Mutual Bank – The Great Bank Heist”, blew the lid off “a wide range of criminality in the conduct of the affairs of VBS”.
The report recommended criminal charges be investigated and fingered chair Tshifhiwa Matodzi as the “kingpin”. It also implicated VBS executives, including chief executive officer Andile Ramavhunga; former chief operating officer Robert Madzonga; former general manager of treasury Phophi Mukhodobwane; and chief financial officer (CFO) Philip Truter.
In addition, the report implicated nonexecutive directors Ernest Nesane and Paul Magula, both from the Public Investment Corporation, Phalaphala Ramikosi, who was the police’s former chief financial officer; and KPMG accountant Sipho Malaba.
National Director of Public Prosecutions Shamila Batohi said on Wednesday: “Today marks a really important step in the progression of this particular matter. It presents one with a certain level of confidence that indeed the relevant authorities are making headway in key cases.”
But, she added, there was still a way to go. “While today’s developments are an important milestone and we are certainly pleased and commend the advances that have been made, we all know that still a lot of work lies ahead.”
She said time was now of the essence, but that the team had to “be meticulous and painstakingly go through all the evidence with a fine-tooth comb to ensure that in the end justice does prevail.
“We owe it to all the investors of the bank, in particular the elderly men and women of Limpopo and beyond who lost their hard-earned earnings.”