‘We’re broke’ – VBS looting suspects ask for reduction in bail amount

Suspects in the dock during the VBS Mutual Bank looting hearing at the Palm Ridge Magistrates Court | Image: Screenshot (YouTube)

A number of the suspects claimed to be unemployed while others argued that they currently do not earn enough to afford the proposed bail amount of R100,000 each.

Seven of the eight suspects linked to the looting of VBS Mutual Bank appeared in the Palm Ridge Magistrates court on Thursday, where a number of them opposed the high bail set by the court. 

The suspects are facing 47 charges of racketeering and fraud.

One of the accused, Phillipus Truter, was not in court as he was in quarantine after having come into contact with someone who has Covid-19. 

Former VBS director and board chair Thsifiwa Matodzi, through his legal representation, argued that he is not a flight risk and added that keeping him incarcerated any longer puts him at further risk of contracting Covid-19. 

UPDATE: R100k bail set – Court not buying VBS accused’s claims of poverty

Former VBS CEO Andile Ramavhuga also opposed the current bail amount of R100,000 and argued that this amount should be reduced as he only earns R30,000 per month. 

Ramavhuga denied ever being involved in fraud or the looting of the bank, adding that he never received R15 million in illegal proceeds as alleged in the indictment. 

Echoing Ramavhuga’s claims that the current bail amount is too high, accused number four, Phopi Mukhondobwane argued that setting the bail amount at more than R20,000 would essentially mean the court is pre-emptively denying him bail because he cannot afford it.

Mukhondobwane claimed to be unemployed and said that he currently depends on his family to survive. 

Similarly, accused number five, Sipho Malaba (listed as Nhlanhla Malaba), a former KPMG auditor who was assigned to VBS argued that as a self-employed entrepreneur, he would not be able to afford the current bail amount. 

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Suspended chief financial officer of the South African Police Service (SAPS), Phalaphala Avhashoni Ramikosi, who was also an independent non-executive director at VBS indicated his intention to plead not guilty. 

Ramikosi added that he is confident he will be acquitted citing his co-operation with the Hawks prior to his arrest. 

Ernest Thifelimbilu Nesane, who is a former representative of the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) at VBS Mutual Bank also argued that he can not afford anything more than R15,000 for bail given his current “limited access” to financial resources. 

Nesane claimed to be unemployed and added that he is responsible for three small children. 

Lastly, fellow PIC representative Paul Magula, asked the court to consider the fact that he would not be able to generate income if he is detained any longer. 

Additionally, he plead with the court to consider that he may not be able to afford any bail amount set by the court given the conditions surrounding his arrest. 

Magula also registered his intention to also plead not guilty, adding that he intends to clear his name by attending the trial. 

The state has indicated that it will not be opposing bail. 

The hearing is currently underway. 

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