7 November 2018

South Africa: Hawks Have Already Interviewed 65 Witnesses in VBS Case

Photo: VBS Mutual Bank
The VBS Mutual Bank website (file photo).

The Hawks have already obtained 65 witness statements in their investigation into VBS Mutual Bank.

Hawks head Lieutenant General Godfrey Lebeya confirmed to the Standing Committee on Finance (SCOF) on Wednesday that the Hawks had already received a request to conduct an investigation into the matter.

"The information at hand indicates there are serious allegations of fraud, contravention of the Municipal Finance Management Act, theft, corruption, money laundering, contravention of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act," Lebeya said.

Acting National Director of Public Prosecutions Silas Ramaite said the National Prosecuting Authority had five prosecutors working with the Hawks.

"It is, in fact, racketeering of its worst," Ramaite said.

He said they were also looking into incidents of reckless trading, "one of the less enforced crimes in South Africa".

The meeting between SCOF, the Hawks, the NPA, the South African Reserve Bank and other financial oversight entities follows the release of advocate Terry Motau's report, compiled with Werksmans Attorneys, titled "The Great Bank Heist". The report detailed large-scale looting at VBS.

SARB deputy governor Kuben Naidoo said massive fraud had been committed, with about R1.9bn looted from the bank.

"Fifty-three people or companies received monies from the bank, with 27 named in the summary report," he said.

"The lead audit partner from KPMG, Mr Sipho Malaba, was complicit in the fraud and the cover-up.

"Bribes were paid to politicians, municipal managers, and other lobbyists to solicit municipal and other public entity deposits," Naidoo said.

"VBS and Vele were intertwined in the conspiracy to defraud depositors."

Naidoo described the "modus operandi of the fraud" as follows:

- The bank creates a fake deposit in the name of a related party;- The bank solicits deposits from municipalities and public entities;- These municipal deposits are then withdrawn against fake deposits or are used to grant "loans" to related parties;- Related party loans are extinguished with fake payments and accounting entries; - The CFO falsified the accounts and monthly data returns to SARB; and- These financial statements and monthly returns were signed off by external auditors.

This is how the #VBS scam worked. "The bank was effectively a Ponzi scheme to the benefit of certain related parties," SCOF hears @TeamNews24 pic.twitter.com/gmqFHXydra-- Jan Gerber (@gerbjan) November 7, 2018

'There were victims, and they are poor'

"The bank was effectively a Ponzi scheme of certain related parties," said Naidoo. "Others were paid to keep quiet or look the other way."

"This was not a victimless crime. There were victims, and they are poor," he said.

The report recommended that it be handed to the NPA, South African Revenue Service, Asset Forfeiture Unit and Hawks, that criminal charges be filed against key protagonists, that the bank should be wound up and that SARB, National Treasury and the bank's curator consider suing auditing firm KPMG.

Naidoo said the first two recommendations were accepted and were currently being implemented. The fourth recommendation - suing KPMG - was still under consideration.

Motau said: "One of the many parties threatening to litigation has finally acted on the threat."

Lebeya and Ramaite said it would not affect their work if the report was set aside in court.

Ramaite said the Motau report, by itself, would not be sufficient to prosecute. They needed to gather further evidence.

Lebeya did not want to say when arrests could be expected.

Source: News24

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