VBS Mutual Bank ‘looters’: theft on a staggering new level

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VBS Mutual Bank ‘looters’: theft on a staggering new level

Money laundering, theft, fraud, corruption – the list is long. We break down the allegations against the former execs

Sipho Masondo

The 80-page indictment sheet for the VBS Mutual Bank top brass, who appeared in court on Thursday, reveals a complicated web of transactions and shell companies. But the bottom line is simple: The gang of eight is accused of stealing more than R1.5bn by creating fictitious accounts.

The former banking bosses are also accused of manipulating VBS’s financial statements to reflect a healthy entity while it was in fact bankrupt.

The Hawks arrested the alleged masterminds behind the plundering of the bank’s resources during a raid on Wednesday morning. Their first court appearances took place on Thursday morning in the Palm Ridge Regional Court, east of Johannesburg, on a raft of charges including money laundering, theft, fraud and corruption.

Those accused are the who’s who of former VBSA executives:

  • Former VBS Mutual Bank and Vele Investments chairman Tshifhiwa Calvin Matodzi;
  • Former VBS Mutual Bank CEO Andile Ramavhunga;
  • Former CFO Philip Truter;
  • Former treasurer Phophi Mukhodobwane;
  • Former KPMG partner Sipho Malaba;
  • Former police officer Avashoni Ramikosi; 
  • Former Public Investment Corporation executives Ernest Nesane and Paul Magula.

The state has lined up 42 witnesses against the accused.

The following is a breakdown of the allegations against them:

Accused number 1: Tshifhiwa Matodzi, former chairman

The indictment shows that Matodzi had control of several accounts held at VBS Mutual Bank. The accounts included: Vele investments, Petronet, Venmont, Robvet, Khavo, Scorpion, Tiisang.

These accounts controlled hundreds of millions of rand, some of which Matodzi used to bribe his co-accused, prosecutors allege.

Prosecutors also accused Matodzi of offering gratification in order to influence them “to act in a manner that amounts to the illegal, dishonest, unauthorised, incomplete, or biased exercise, carrying out or performance of any powers, duties or functions arising out of a statutory, contractual or any other legal obligation”.

Accused Number 2: Andile Ramavhunga, former CEO

Between December 2016 and February 2018, the indictment shows, Ramavhunga received about R19m into the account of “Dambale”, a company owned by him. Other accounts, held at VBS Mutual Bank, which Ramavhunga controlled, include those of Munyai Investments and another one named in the indictment as the “Ramavhunga” account.

Ramavhunga received R3.7m into the Munyai Investments account. The money came from the Vele and Vele Petroport accounts, the indictment shows.

Also, he received R795,000 into the Ramavhunga account from the Venmont, Vele and Petroport accounts.

Up to February 2018, Ramavhunga’s accounts had received a total of R23.4m.

Accused number 3: Philip Truter, former CFO

The indictment shows that Truter received R2m into the FNB account of a company called Shangri La Investments.

Accused number 4: Phophi Mukhodobwane, former treasurer

On the instruction of Matodzi, Mukhodobwane received R5.6m into the account of Lamawave Ltd.

The indictment shows that a Peter Mukhodobwane, who was the sole shareholder of Lamawave, was a front for Phophi Mukhodobwane, the former treasurer.

In total, Mukhodobwane received R17.1m into Lamawave and the “Mukhodobwane” accounts.

Accused number 5: Sipho Malaba, former KPMG partner

Malaba has been charged with fraud for signing off VBS Bank’s 2017 financial statements which gave the false impression that its finances were in a healthy state.

Malaba, Matodzi, Ramavhunga, Truter, Nesane and Magula were also collectively charged with “unlawfully, falsely and with the intention to defraud ... shareholders, VBS creditors and the Registrar” approving the financial statements.”

On the money trail against Malaba, the indictment shows that a company called Ihaawu Lesizwe, owned by Jacqueline Jaseman Malaba and Bafana Milundelwa Malaba, had the following accounts at VBS Mutual Bank: two vehicle finance accounts, a mortgage account and a classic business account.

Betanologix, another company owned by Jacqueline Jaseman Malaba and a Mwise Mapepo, also had an account at the bank.

Up to March 2018 both companies, which the indictment claims were fronts for Sipho Malaba, received up to R29.2m.

Further, on Matodzi’s instruction, R654,000 was paid into the trust accounts of Makaula Zilwa Inc and NGL attorneys on behalf of Malaba.

Accused number 6: Avashoni Ramikosi, former police officer

The indictment shows that a company called Zanoware, owned by Alice Manye, was a front for Ramikosi. The company had received up to R750,000 from Venmont, one of the many accounts controlled by Matodzi.

Accused number 7: Ernest Nesane, former PIC executive

Nesane, the prosecutors will argue, received up to R1.1m into the account of a company called Parallel Properties owned by Rudzani Ndwammbi.

Ndwammbi, prosecutors will argue, was a front for Nesane, as all monies received by Parallel Properties benefited the former PIC executive.

Also, on the instruction of Matodzi, prosecutors revealed that Nesane benefited from R5.6m which was paid into Parallel Properties from the Vele account.

Accused number 8: Paul Magula, former PIC executive

The indictment shows that a company called Investar Connect Holdings, owned by a Lot Magosha, was a front for Magula.

The company was paid R2.8m for the benefit of Magula on instruction from Matodzi.

Another company, Hekima Capital, which had an account at VBS Mutual Bank, received R3.3m on behalf of Magula on Matodzi’s instruction.

‘Intention to defraud’

In the indictment, prosecutors claim that all eight accused were associated and had formed an enterprise with the intention to defraud VBS Mutual Bank and enrich themselves in the process.

“The accused, among others, made use of the following legally registered entities ... VBS Mutual Bank, Vele Investments (Pty) Ltd, Vele Petroport Holdings SA (Pty) Ltd, Venmont Holdings (Pty) Ltd and Robvet (Pty) Ltd to provide continuity of structure for the unlawful activities of the enterprise.

“The accused all associated with the enterprise. Members of the enterprise gained overall control of the financial systems of VBS Mutual Bank.

“The primary purpose of the enterprise was to enrich the members and associates through the theft of money from the general pool of funds in VBS Mutual Bank.

“The theft of the money was covered up through various acts of fraud and money laundering.

“Members of the enterprise also received and made corrupt payments as indicative of their and/or other people, known and unknown to the state, participation in the theft, or at the very least, in the acts of fraud that covered up the theft.”

The court granted all eight accused bail of R100,000 each, and the matter was postponed to October.