EFF welcomes VBS arrests as parties react

VBS Bank branding. Picture: Moneyweb

Seven suspects were arrested in connection to the disappearance of over R2 billion in municipal funds, which led to the liquidation of VBS bank.

Opposition parties, including the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), Congress of the People (Cope) and the Democratic Alliance (DA), welcomed the arrest of former insiders of VBS Mutual Bank, who were accused of corruption and criminality relating to VBS Mutual Bank.

The Hawks arrested seven suspects on Tuesday in connection to the disappearance of over R2 billion in municipal funds, which led to the liquidation of VBS bank.

Meanwhile, the seven suspects set to appear at the Palmridge Regional Court on Thursday, an eighth has been found to be in quarantine due to Covid-19 infection.

It was also reported that three further suspects are expected to be arrested before then.

EFF welcomed the arrest, but reaffirmed that there was no wrongdoing or criminal activity committed by its leaders despite allegations of involvement against its leadership.

“We will closely monitor and developments and believe that the process underway way will be conducted in a free and fair manner so that justice prevails and that the legal principle of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ is followed both in letter and in spirit,” the EFF said in a statement.

Cope spokesperson Dennis Bloem called for no further delays in prosecuting those involved in honour of the victims “who have clearly suffered devastating blows to their investments and livelihood”.

“They need to see swift conclusion to this matter and not experience undue delays. In recent years, both the Hawks and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) have been found wanting when it comes to efficiency and effectiveness in their prosecution of case. Two examples standing out here as examples are the inconclusive prosecution of the Guptas and the Steinhoff matters.

“We expect the criminal justice system to ensure that all participants in the orgy of theft and corruption in the VBS matter to be held accountable. This includes high profile politicians and their political parties which benefited from the proceeds of this crime,” he said.

Bloem further said the party also expect that auditing firms should be held accountable for their unlawful conduct from which they benefited.

“The practice of allowing big business to just pay back the money and not being criminally charged should the stopped immediately if confidence in the criminal justice system is to be restored,” he concluded.

Meanwhile, the DA said it was concerned about the apparent lack of progress in the case.

“The money stolen from VBS included about R2 billion in municipal funds, most of which is unlikely to be recovered. While several mayors and municipal officials did resign in the wake of VBS-related investigations, many seem to have escaped serious consequences, even as they left municipalities in financial distress.

“In at least one case, a chief financial officer (CFO) of a municipality in the North West resigned before disciplinary action could be taken against her, only to reappear in Limpopo a few months later as a municipal manager,” said DA MP Cilliers Brink in a statement.

Brink said the DA believes that the Municipal Finance Management Act (MFMA) would assist the prosecutors in the VBS case.

“For a number of years, MFMA investment regulations have explicitly prohibited the deposit of municipal funds in mutual banks. No implicated municipal official can plead ignorance of these regulations.

“Section 173 of the MFMA criminalises financial misconduct by municipal officials, and this includes the deliberate or grossly negligent flouting of investment regulations,” he said.

He continued to say: “While the scope of the VBS case is far bigger than just the municipal functionaries who enabled the looting, the DA believes that the case presents an excellent opportunity to test or at least leverage the criminal sanctions created by South Africa’s municipal legislation.”

READ NEXT: WATCH: Shamila Batohi says ‘wheels of justice are turning’ for VBS looters.

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