VBS looting arrests draw mixed reactions from investors

VBS Mutual Bank chairperson Tshifhiwa Matodzi and CEO Andile Ramavhunga. Matodzi has been fingered to be at the centre of the grand scale looting at the bank. / Mduduzi Ndzingi
VBS Mutual Bank chairperson Tshifhiwa Matodzi and CEO Andile Ramavhunga. Matodzi has been fingered to be at the centre of the grand scale looting at the bank. / Mduduzi Ndzingi
Image: Mduduzi Ndzingi

The first arrests in the VBS Mutual Bank looting scandal worth almost R2bn have been met with mixed reactions from minority shareholders.

Seven people, including high-ranking bank officials, were nabbed yesterday following search-and-seizure operations at properties in Gauteng and Limpopo.

One suspect who couldn't be arrested yesterday was expected to turn themselves in.

The Daily Maverick reported yesterday that four bankers, two officials from the Public Investment Corporation (PIC), a KPMG auditor and a lieutenant generalin the SA police were arrested in connection with their instrumental role in the theft of over R2.7bn from VBS Mutual Bank.

The online newspaper also reported that those arrested included Tshifhiwa Matodzi, the chair of VBS and Vele Investments, a company which obtained the majority shareholding in VBS, the bank's treasurer Phophi Mukhodobwane, CFO Philip Truter, nonexecutive directors of VBS and nominees of the PIC Ernest Nesane and Paul Magula and CEO and executive director of VBS Andile Ramavhunga.

The VBS scandal first broke after a report by lawyer Terry Motau and Werskmans Attorneys, released in October 2018, showed that the bank, used largely by the poor in Limpopo, was looted by politically connected individuals of almost R2bn in over three years.

Businessman Robert Livhoyi, one of the VBS Bank's minority shareholders, told Sowetan the arrests of eight men who allegedly looted the bank meant little if their stolen money could not be recovered.

"I heard about the arrests. For me it's not about the arrests or not, it's about the money that the people have lost... I cannot celebrate the arrests," Livhoyi said.

"All I know is that our money was lost there because of careless people from top to bottom. A bank is monitored by the Reserve Bank but our money was still stolen."

Livhoyi said they, as minority shareholders, still asked themselves questions about why millions were stolen without anyone, including the Reserve Bank, noticing.

He also suggested the looting was a well-executed plan.

"Nobody can steal so many millions and nobody can pick it up... that can only happen at a stokvel not a bank.

"Why is it not happening in other banks?"

The national head of the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation Godfrey Lebeya, revealed yesterday during a media briefing In Johannesburg that warrants of arrest had been issued for all eight suspects.

The eighth suspect, he said, had contracted Covid-19 and was in isolation.

"The scam was hatched in July 2017 when the board of directors approved financial statements, making VBS look richer while it was insolvent."

The directorate, better known as the Hawks received the investigation in 2018. It put together a team of 15 investigators.

National director of prosecutions Shamila Batohi commended the team on the investigation.

"We are pleased and commend the advances made by the team. We all know a lot of work lies ahead.

"The team has to be meticulous. We have to do this to ensure justice does prevail and the rule of law prevails as well.

"We owe it to the people of Limpopo who lost their hard-earned savings. It is our duty to the direct victims of corruption in the matter.

"We can only turn the tide against corruption if those implicated are arrested."

She urged the public to be patient.

"Investigations need time and patience. I feel and share the impatience of the public,"

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