R4.5m the only thing linking ex-VBS boss to R1.5bn fraud saga, court hears

A payment of R4.5m is the only thing linking a former VBS Mutual Bank boss to a saga involving R1.5bn allegedly being plundered from the institution, an advocate alleged in the South Gauteng High Court on Wednesday.

Jonathan Blou SC has also said that the "main witness" in the matter has not implicated his client, Robert Madzonga, VBS’s previous chief operations officer and the group executive officer of Vele Investments, in fraud.

Blou was speaking on behalf of Madzonga during an application to have his (Madzonga’s) estate provisionally sequestrated.

At least R1.5bn was allegedly looted from VBS and used by executives who bought, among other items, luxury vehicles.

Phophi Mukhodobwane, VBS’s general head of treasury and capital management, previously made shocking allegations in an affidavit, including how alleged bribe money was transported in a helicopter purchased by VBS - a purchase that has not been accounted for in the bank’s books.

He has, therefore, been labelled the "main witness" in the matter.

'Inadmissible'

However, Mukhodobwane has since claimed that the details in his affidavit are inadmissable, as he did not know investigators would expose him as the main informant.

On Tuesday provisional sequestration orders were granted against Mukhodobwane; Tshifiwa Matodzi, the former chair of VBS’s board of directors and also the director and chair of Vele Investments; as well as  Phillip Truter, the bank's chief financial officer.

Vele Investments, VBS’s main shareholder, which allegedly also benefited from alleged fraud carried out by bank executives, was also liquidated.

It emerged in court on Wednesday that Mukhodobwane wanted to appeal the provisional sequestration.

'The only tie'

Blou argued on Wednesday that, in his initial affidavit, Mukhodobwane had not named Madzonga as giving instructions which were fraudulent.

"There's not one word about an instruction given by Mr Madzonga," he said.

Blou also said that Mukhodobwane had referred to R1.4m allegedly paid to Madzonga, but said his client had not been aware of the source of this money.

"He knows about the R4.5m, but he doesn't know it's coming from 'fictitious funds'," he said.

Blou pointed to the R4.5m as being the only thing connecting Madzonga to the alleged R1.5bn fraud saga.

"That's his only tie to the whole case," he argued.

Michael Antonie SC, who is representing the curator in the VBS matter, had earlier argued that in February 2018 Madzonga had seen that a total of R18m was paid to VBS.

Antonie had said the R18m payments to VBS were unusual in that Mukhodobwane, as a senior VBS staffer, had contacted Madzonga in his personal capacity - and at the same time head of the bank's biggest shareholder - asking him "to solve the liquidity crisis at the bank".

The payments, Antonie alleged, were to try and conceal the fact that VBS could not pay its creditors.

Proceedings are set to continue.

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