EXCLUSIVE | Action expected soon on VBS looting - Hawks head

Hawks head Lieutenant General Godfrey Lebeya.  (Deaan Vivier, Netwerk24)
Hawks head Lieutenant General Godfrey Lebeya. (Deaan Vivier, Netwerk24)

Hawks head Lieutenant General Godfrey Lebeya says he expects imminent action in the case against those responsible for looting the now-defunct VBS Mutual Bank. In an exclusive interview with News24 at his office in Silverton, Pretoria this week, Lebeya said that certain "legs" of the VBS investigation had been finalised and were "ready" to go.

Last year, advocate Terry Motau released his report, titled The Great Bank Heist, into fraud and corruption at the bank, compiled with Werksmans Attorneys. It estimated that nearly R2bn was looted from the bank. More than 50 people benefitted.

Motau recommended criminal charges be instituted. The South African Reserve Bank is the complainant in the criminal case being investigated by the Directorate of Priority Crimes Investigation (Hawks).

Don't let the birds 'fly away'

Lebeya says that, while certain parts of the investigation are completed, investigators have to act strategically in carrying out arrests.

"You see, when you are dealing with complicated matters, you cut them into legs. As I speak, I can say that, from my point of view, there are certain legs that are ready. But it's not all the legs that are ready. We don't wait for all the legs, but you have got to do it strategically so that, when you hit one, the other birds don’t fly away elsewhere.

"So there is a strategic way of dealing with that. So I think, in one area we are ready, but in another area there is still something that needs to be done," says Lebeya.

The Hawks boss says he expected movement on the case some time ago already, but it is up to prosecutors to decide when to act.

"We can expect movement. I also expect movement. I would have expected it a long time ago, but we are not working alone here. We are working with others so that interrogation management, if you can look at the process that takes place before you deal with that one leg, it is massive but it will be unpacked when we take that one."

Lebeya says often police investigators are more hasty, but prosecutors want to close all the loopholes that may appear in court.

"When we investigate, we need to be guided by the prosecutors. Are we still getting what you want? Are you comfortable that we are going in this direction? The investigation on its own, we can look at a matter and try and investigate it differently, but you obviously have the prosecutor who is going to stand in court who is going to say, no I will be happy if I get this one.

"We have got cases that I think all of us, especially when you ask a police person, police will always say we must move on this one. At times, we might be wanting to move too quick, whereas the one that is going to present this case in court may say, I want to close that loophole."

'The honeymoon is over'

Lebeya acknowledges that there are serious problems facing his organisation, most notably a shocking 50% capacity. He says a new structure was approved in October and the Hawks are now actively recruiting investigators and forensic auditors, amongst others.

There are currently 1 700 investigators at the Hawks, working on almost 19 000 cases. They have recently referred more than 1 800 cases to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) for decisions.

Around 10 members have also been allocated to the NPA's Investigating Directorate, focusing on priority state capture cases.

Lebeya says his members are working as hard as they can, but they could be moving quicker.

"They must just understand that certain matters will take a little bit of time, but we are cutting on that because we know that we can't wait too long. People need the results, but in doing that one we are cautious not to be making mistakes that, at the end of the day, we go to court and then the matter is withdrawn.

"It's even worse if you have not taken this matter to court, because then you are on a back foot. So we want to be providing the cases that are actually prima facie to assist the prosecutor in reaching a proper conclusion at court, rather than reaching a conclusion based on what we have put in the docket.

"The honeymoon is over. Even myself, I feel it is over. I am impatient within me. I would have loved to have moved quicker than the pace that I am moving at. That is real and this is what I emphasise daily, impressing on my members that we need to be moving quicker than the way we have been moving."

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