Prosecutors say the investigation into seven people accused of looting VBS Mutual Bank is at an advanced stage, but the state has requested more time to add additional charges and make further arrests.
The seven men appeared briefly in the Commercial Crimes Court, sitting at the Palm Ridge Magistrates’ Court, on Thursday where the case was postponed to 26 January 2021.
The accused include the alleged mastermind behind the R2-billion looting of the bank, VBS chairperson Tshifhiwa Matodzi, former CEO Andile Ramavhunga and former company treasurer Phophi Mukhodobwane.
They’re joined by the Public Investment Corporation’s representatives on the company’s board, Paul Magula and Ernest Nesane, former SAPS CFO Avhashoni Ramikosi and KPMG’s former engagement partner, Sipho Malaba.
The seven were charged in June 2020, along with former VBS CFO Philip Truter, who entered into a plea bargain and pleaded guilty to racketeering, fraud, corruption and money laundering in court on Wednesday. He received an effective seven-year prison sentence in exchange for providing information on his co-accused.
The eight men originally faced 47 counts of racketeering, fraud, corruption, theft and money laundering, but the NPA will revise the indictment and provide it to the seven accused before their January court appearance.
“We are almost done. It’s not that we’re starting now. We are at an advanced stage,” prosecutor Heins van der Merwe told the court.
NPA spokesperson Sipho Ngwema said of the postponement, “This is in order to amend the indictment but also to add a further accused in the matter. So we’re hoping that between now and January those things will have taken place and we’d… be able to share the new indictment with the accused.”
Truter’s testimony is expected to be pivotal in the case against his former colleagues.
The former CFO admitted to advocate Terry Motau, who authored the forensic report The Great Bank Heist with law firm Werksmans, that “he was an essential participant in the manipulation of VBS’s banking systems, the fraudulent misrepresentations contained in the 2017 annual financial statements and the submission of fraudulent DI returns”.
In his plea agreement, Truter admitted to unlawfully receiving R5-million in gratification and inflating the bank’s assets on its financial statements while it was actually insolvent.
“Many of these schemes are fairly closed and only a very close inside group will have the know-how of the shenanigans that transpired – someone like Truter who decides to take responsibility for his actions will always be encouraged to talk to the state, and such honesty is welcomed,” said Ngwema after Truter’s conviction.
“Corruption can effectively be beaten from the inside. Further legs of the VBS investigation by the Hawks and the NPA are progressing well.”
Much of the funds looted from VBS came from deposits made by municipalities in contravention of the Municipal Finance Management Act. Local government officials were allegedly bribed to make the deposits.
Merafong Municipality CFO Thys Wienekus is the only municipal official who has been charged in relation to such deposits. Merafong invested R50-million with VBS.
According to the Mail & Guardian, the Hawks are closing in on a number of ANC politicians based in Limpopo and could make arrests soon.
ANC Limpopo provincial officials Danny Msiza and Florence Radzilani, both implicated in the looting, were allowed to return to their positions on the party’s provincial executive committee in September 2020 as they faced no criminal charges almost two years after they were linked to the looting. DM