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Hawks confirm 7 suspects to appear in court over VBS heist

Hawks head Lieutenant-General Godfrey Lebeya and NPA head Shamila Batohi briefed the media on the progress made in the VBS Mutual Bank heist matter on Wednesday.

VBS Mutual Bank. Picture: Sethembiso Zulu/EWN

PRETORIA - Hawks head Lieutenant-General Godfrey Lebeya said those who had been suspected of money laundering and fraud at VBS are expected to appear in court on Thursday.

Lebeya and NPA head Shamila Batohi briefed the media on the progress made in the VBS Mutual Bank heist matter on Wednesday.

Lebeya explained that early morning simultaneous raids were conducted in Gauteng and Limpopo.

Those arrested included former VBS and Vele Investments chairperson Tshifhiwa Matodzi, the alleged kingpin behind the heist.

Former board members and senior KPMG auditors were also rounded up earlier today and were charged with corruption and money laundering among others.

The eighth suspect is in quarantine after contracting COVID-19 and is expected to be arrested soon.

Lebeya said: “The allegations are that the chairman and the executive CEO signed the director’s responsibility statement to the annual financial statement that was prepared by the chief financial officers of VBS. The investigation has revealed that the eight men, who are the suspects, either directly or indirectly benefited at least R122,287,863, which was not due.”

Godfrey said that their investigation had revealed that 20 municipalities deposited over R3 billion to VBS but only got R2.2 billion back.

“Our investigation revealed that 20 municipalities deposited R3.7 billion of which R2.2 billion was paid back, leaving an amount of R1.5 billion in VBS.

"It was decided to charge the suspects with 47 counts of criminal offences - these are five counts of the pattern of racketeering, 12 of these counts are of theft, common law offence, 7 are for fraud, which is also common law offences, 15 counts are for corruption in terms of the contravention of the Prevention and Combatting of Corrupt Activities Act."

The suspects are expected to appear at the Palm Ridge Magistrates Court on Thursday.

Batohi said the advancements by the Hawks were a milestone and they would be making arrests where they have to.

“The country must rest assured that we will prosecute wherever the evidence takes us.”

DELAYING TACTICS WILL BE OPPOSED BY THE NPA

Batohi said the NPA was intent upon the prosecution matters being finalised as speedy as possible.

“But what we have found in a number of high profile cases is that there is a strategy to delay matters and to deal with a number of interlocutory applications and the prosecution can’t really control that. But we have decided as the NPA, we are going to take a much more vigorous stance with regard to these dilatory tactics and that we have sought council’s views on this.”

Batohi said they were putting together strategic responses to ensure that these dilatory tactics are opposed by the NPA as far as the bails were concerned.

WATCH: NPA, Hawks give update on VBS case

'COMPLICATED PONZI SCHEME'

In 2018, the VBS bank, based in Limpopo, collapsed after being fleeced by the very people who were entrusted with looking after client's money.

Almost R2 billion was stolen by the bank's directors, senior executives and others.

Auditors employed by KPMG are believed to have been involved, in particular audit partner Sipho Malaba, who allegedly signed off on the bank's fake financial statements to hide from regulators about how the money was being looted.

According to amaBhungane, which has been investigating the matter for years, what happened at VBS was "technically complicated but essentially a classic Ponzi scheme that took off in 2015 and reached catastrophic proportions in 2018".

The bank took in deposits, largely from municipalities and then distributed these funds to bank executives, their connections and those who needed bribing at municipalities.

One of the top beneficiaries was Tshifhiwa Matodzi, the former chairperson on the bank and his company Vele Investments.

By February 2018, the bank had run out of money and was placed under curatorship the following month.

Part of this scheme involved creating fake accounts, with loans and overdrafts never being paid and soon the bank was missing more than R2 billion and clients weren't able to draw their money.

Although municipalities lost out and many individuals were affected and National Treasury made over R260 million available to pay the poor from rural Limpopo who had invested money.

High profile politicians, including leaders from the ANC and EFF are alleged to have benefitted from the massive corruption. They have repeatedly denied their involvement.