VBS arrests: Suspects due in court on Thursday to face 47 counts - Lebeya

Hawks boss advocate Godfrey Lebeya.
Hawks boss advocate Godfrey Lebeya.
  • Four of the eight suspects have been arrested, three others are expected to hand themselves over and one remains in Covid-19 quarantine.
  • Suspects expected to appear in Palm Ridge Regional Court on Thursday.
  • The men face 47 counts of corruption, racketeering, money laundering, fraud and theft.

Eight VBS suspects are due to appear in the Palm Ridge Regional Court on Thursday on 47 counts of fraud, racketeering, corruption, theft and money laundering.

The eight men accrued R122 million to themselves unduly, directly and indirectly, over several months, Hawks head Lieutenant General Godfrey Lebeya said during a media briefing on Wednesday.

Lebeya and national director of public prosecutions, advocate Shamila Batohi provided an update on an early-morning operation in Gauteng and Limpopo to nab the men, who they have not officially named.

MUST READ | VBS gang goes down - here's everything you need to know

News24 understands that among those arrested are former VBS chairman Tshifhiwa Matodzi, who was described as the "kingpin" of the VBS looting scheme that resulted in more than R2 billion being stolen from the bank's coffers.

Lebeya gave a detailed breakdown of the charges and confirmed that the arrests were accompanied by search and seizure operations. While he would not be drawn into detail, he did confirm the investigation was ongoing. 

Of the eight men, four have been taken into custody, three are set to hand themselves over later on Wednesday and one man remains in quarantine due to Covid-19.

47 counts 

The men will face a cumulative of 47 counts, broken down as follows:

  • 5 counts of a "pattern of racketeering activities" in contravention of the Prevention of Corrupt Activities Act
  • 12 counts of common law theft
  • 7 counts of fraud
  • 15 counts of corruption in terms of contravening the Prevention and Combatting of Corrupt Activities act and;
  • 7 counts of money laundering

This amounts to 46 counts in total, and it is unclear if Lebeya erred or omitted a count.

"The scam was hatched on the 4 July 2017 when the board of directors for VBS approved financial statements for the year ending 31 March 2017 making VBS to look richer while it was in fact insolvent. The financial statements were shockingly inflated," Lebeya said.

News24 reported on Wednesday that in addition to Matodzi, the other men who will appear in court on Thursday include former VBS CEO Andile Ramavhunga.

READ | Hawks arrest VBS ‘kingpin’ Tshifhiwa Matodzi and other directors in early morning raid

Additionally former VBS treasury Phophi Mukhodobwane, former VBS chief financial officer Philip Truter and former non-executive VBS board members Ernest Nesane and Paul Magula are also set to be charged.

Nesane and Magula were employees of the Public Investment Corporation (PIC)  who were seconded to the board to look after the PIC’s investment in VBS, as well as Phalaphala Ramikosi - former SAPS chief financial officer and a non-executive director of VBS. 

Other accused

Sipho Malaba, the former KPMG engagement partner who was in charge of the bank's audits, is also due to appear in court.

Lebeya did not clarify which of the men were in quarantine but said procedures in place to safeguard against the spread of Covid-19 would be adhered to in ensuring he appeared before court.

Lebeya said the arrests stem from a criminal docket that was registered in May 2019 following a complaint by the South African Reserve Bank.

The Prudential Authority, which regulates the banking sector and is a division of the SARB, appointed advocate Terry Motau to investigate the affairs of VBS in 2018.

His report, titled The Great Bank Heist, was published in late 2018, and recommended a raft of charges against the bank’s board and management, as well as those who benefitted from the looting.

This includes politicians and their family members.

Labour intensive

Bathohi said they would not hesitate to prosecute any person whom the evidence pointed to.

"Investigations of this magnitude are complicated and labour intensive," Lebeya said.

He explained that a team of 15 investigators, some of whom are on secondment from the Detective Service of the SAPS, was put together in August 2018.

More than 1 000 statements had been taken in the course of the investigation so far, he said.

Batohi echoed his sentiments, and said that "regrettably, quality investigations and prosecutions take time and patience". 

She praised the team of National Prosecuting Service prosecutors who led the investigation, saying it showed the importance and value of prosecutor-led investigations that the case had been brought before court within two years. 

"Teamwork is a recipe for success," Lebeya said.

Note: This article was amended after publication to remove the name of Robert Madzonga, former VBS and Vele Investments chief operations officer, who was named among those expected to appear in court. Mr Madzonga was not among those arrested and did not appear in court. We apologise for the error.

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