Philip Truter, disgraced former chief financial officer of VBS Mutual Bank, has entered into a plea bargain with the National Prosecuting Authority and will testify against his co-accused in the upcoming R2-billion alleged fraud case.
This follows nearly a year of negotiations with prosecutors during which Truter secured a reduction in his likely jail sentence to 10 years, of which three will be suspended. He will also be held in a single cell “for safety reasons”.
Truter’s incarceration compares with a normal minimum sentence of 15 years for most of the six charges he faces. These range from money laundering to fraud, theft and corruption.
Truter agreed to provide a sworn statement and hundreds of pages of evidence, say sources in the NPA. He was convicted and jailed on Wednesday 7 October after pleading guilty in accordance with his bargain in terms of section 105A of the Criminal Procedure Act.
The deal was accepted by the Palm Ridge magistrate’s court.
Truter originally faced 22 different charges in the indictment produced by the NPA on 17 June. He potentially still faces the balance of the 22 charges (ie. 16 charges) if his testimony is judged to not be genuine. This is because the NPA is using a mechanism created under section 204 of the Criminal Procedure Act that allows it to not pursue a charge as a way to reward cooperation by an accused.
Now for the rest
Truter’s plea and conviction came one day before his co-accused were due to appear in court to plead guilty or not guilty. They include former VBS chairman and “mastermind” Tshifhiwa Matodzi, chief executive Andile Ramavhunga and treasurer Phophi Mukhodobwane.
Alongside them will be the Public Investment Corporation’s two former representatives to the VBS board, Paul Magula and Ernest Nesane. The last accused is Phalaphala Avhashoni Ramikosi, the former chief financial officer of the South African Police Service and also a former board member of VBS.
They face a collective 47 charges.
There were earlier public signs that Truter had broken ranks with the rest of the VBS team.
He was arrested separately from his co-accused, who were swept simultaneously on 17 June. The reason given for this was that he was in isolation after coming into contact with someone infected with Covid-19. Truter was arrested the following week and consequentially has not appeared in a court beside the others — and now probably never will.
AmaBhungane understands that it was, in fact, Truter’s repeated prevarication about a plea deal that delayed the arrest of the VBS accused for several months. DM