Former president Jacob Zuma started repaying his R7.8m VBS Mutual Bank loan to pay for his Nkandla homestead only after the bank was put under curatorship in March this year — 18 months after the loan was granted.
A special team comprising Hawks investigators and senior prosecutors from the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has now been tasked with looking into who serviced Zuma’s loan since September 2016, when it was granted.
It will look at whether former executives of VBS created fictitious deposit entries against Zuma’s account to make it seem as if it was being serviced monthly. The team will also be examining suspected money-laundering, corruption and fraud at the bank.
The team started its joint investigation last week, but the Sunday Times has learnt that arrests could have been effected two months ago had the NPA acted on a complaint from the Reserve Bank.
This week a sensational report by advocate Terry Motau SC titled “The Great Bank Heist” detailed the R1.8bn looting spree that led to the dramatic collapse of the bank and the loss of almost R2bn deposited by some of Limpopo’s poorest municipalities.
It reveals how VBS Mutual Bank and Vele Investments chair Tshifhiwa Matodzi got R325m, Vele Investments CEO Robert Madzonga R30.3m, bank treasurer Phophi Mukhodobwane R30.5m and bank CEO Andile Ramavhunga R28.9m.
Hawks and NPA spokespersons Hangwani Mulaudzi and Luvuyo Mfaku confirmed that the elite crime-fighting unit and the NPA had formed the joint team.
“The main complainant, the Reserve Bank, has opened a case and we are going to be working from that. They have all the information now … we are looking at moneylaundering, corruption, fraud and all other related issues,” Mulaudzi said.
Investigations started six months ago based on a preliminary report they obtained from the Bank. Now that a final report is out, it is only a matter of time before arrests are made, he said.
“We have already identified suspects and the entities. We now have to solidify what we already have,” he said.
Mfaku confirmed that a team of five Specialised Commercial Crime Unit (SCCU) prosecutors is working with the Hawks.
He said the team of prosecutors was appointed last week after receiving Motau’s final report and began working with the Hawks to investigate illegal payments to 53 recipients.
The Sunday Times has established that Zuma signed his loan agreement only nine months after the money was granted by the doomed bank.
The unusual agreement is one of the questions Zuma and others will have to respond to when the Hawks seek answers about how the loan was granted, whether it was done in accordance with the law and who serviced the loan prior to Zuma, and for what reason.
VBS came into the spotlight in 2016 when it granted Zuma a R7.8m loan to repay the portion of the R246m in taxpayers’ money spent on his Nkandla homestead that former public protector Thuli Mandonsela deemed as luxury, non-security features.
The Sunday Times has established from those close to the VBS investigation that Zuma started making repayments, of about R70,000 a month and debited to his Absa account, only from March, when the bank went into curatorship.
“The payment profile changed in March  to reflect Zuma as the person depositing the money. What we are unable to see is who was making payments before then,” said a source close to the investigation.
Zuma’s spokesperson Vukile Mathabela did not respond to questions about the loan.
VBS curator Anoosh Rooplal refused to respond to questions about Zuma’s loan, saying it was subject to client privilege.
UDM leader Bantu Holomisa yesterday called for further investigation into the relationship between Zuma and VBS’s top management.
“If he started to pay the loan in March, then it is clear he was not going to pay [had the bank not been placed under curatorship],” said Holomisa.
The Sunday Times has learnt that VBS directors and auditing firm KPMG’s lead auditor, Sipho Malaba, could have been arrested in August had the NPA acted on a fraud complaint by the Reserve Bank.
Instead of doing so, the NPA’s advocate Marijke de Kock, a deputy director of public prosecutions in the SCCU in Pretoria, admonished the Bank for jeopardising any future VBS prosecution by appointing the independent inquiry by Motau and Werksmans Attorneys.
According to sources close to the VBS case, the Reserve Bank laid a complaint against five VBS directors and Malaba after a preliminary report by Motau revealed that the Bank had been deliberately misled about the liquidity status of VBS through fraudulent audit statements.
“There was no need to wait for the final report to be released as this was a straightforward case of fraud that could be prosecuted immediately. However, the prosecutor on the case either mistook their mandate or completely misunderstood the case as she took the Reserve Bank to task for appointing the investigation in the first place,” said a legal expert working on the case.
NPA spokesperson Mfaku said he was not aware of De Kock’s letter to the Reserve Bank, and said she has in fact been appointed to lead the high-profile team of prosecutors working with the Hawks and Bank officials.
With arrests “imminent” in the VBS saga, the deputy chair of the ANC in Limpopo, Florence Radzilani, and provincial treasurer Danny Msiza are to face the party’s integrity commission regarding their dealings with VBS. Msiza is named as the middleman who negotiated big commissions for himself in return for convincing municipalities in the province to invest with the bank. Radzilani — who is mayor of the Vhembe district mu-
nicipality, which invested R300m in VBS — is said to have asked for a “Christmas” (monetary gift) in return for keeping that money at VBS.
“We gave her 300k and she cried and said we gave juniors R1.5m and we give her 300k … We said we will consult with you and will sort her out on Friday morning,” read a WhatsApp from Kabelo Matsepe, a facilitator of funds from municipalities to VBS, to Matodzi, suspected to be the main culprit in the looting. Radzilani could not be reached for comment.
Also implicated in the looting is EFF deputy president Floyd Shivambu’s brother, Brian. Yesterday the older Shivambu denied having benefited from the R16m paid to his brother’s company.
The VBS loan to Zuma is also the subject of a court challenge in the Supreme Court of Appeal in which Venda King Toni Mphephu Ramabulana’s sister, Masindi Ramabulana — who is laying claim to the throne — is arguing that Zuma gave the crown to her brother as a reward for helping Zuma get the loan.
Meanwhile, the VBS looting has claimed its first high-profile victim in the form of Phalaphala Ramikosi, chief financial officer at the SAPS, who was the bank’s nonexecutive director and the chair of its audit committee. Ramikosi resigned as SAPS CFO on Thursday, the day Motau’s report came out.
Ramikosi is named in the report as having “confessed” to benefiting from “unlawful payments made to a nominee company for his benefit”.
– Sunday times