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S.Africa court orders liquidation of graft-hit bank

South African bank notes featuring an image of former South African President Nelson Mandela are displayed at an office in Johannesburg January 17, 2013. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

A South African high court on Tuesday ordered the liquidation of a bank that collapsed after being looted by politically well-connected individuals and businesses.

The collapse of VBS has been one of the most serious graft cases to rock South Africa since the departure earlier this year of scandal-tainted former president Jacob Zuma.

“VBS must be wound up on an urgent basis and a liquidator appointed so that the necessary civil and criminal proceedings can be pursued to hold those accountable for the demise of VBS,” the court ruling read.

An application by the South African Reserve Bank was unopposed at the high court in the capital, Pretoria.

The mutual bank, which opened in October 2000, was put under administration in March 2018 as it ran out on money.

A central bank report titled “The Great Bank Heist” into the failure of VBS detailed how $130 million (112 million euros) was stolen over three years by 53 individuals, including executives and politicians.

“It is corrupt and rotten to the core. Indeed, there is hardly a person in its employ in any position of authority who is not, in some way or other, complicit,” the report said.

The bank’s failure has hit poor and rural clients hardest, with the government saying the missing money must to recovered to protect depositors.

Previously, local media reports had revealed executives bought luxury cars and chartered helicopters with the bank’s money, and arranged huge illegal deals by Whatsapp messages.

Motau recommended criminal charges against those in charge at the bank, which had 23,000 retail depositors.

VBS Mutual gained notoriety in 2016 when it lent Zuma $540,000 to repay taxpayers for upgrades he made to his private home. DM

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