5 shocking things in the 'Great Bank Heist' report into VBS Mutual Bank
On Tuesday the Reserve Bank published a 148-page report into VBS Mutual Bank by advocate Terry Motau titled "The Great Bank Heist".
"My report will reveal that the perpetrators of the heist at VBS made away with almost R2 billion," Motau says in a foreword. "I trust that, in this case, arrests will be made."
The explosive report recommends criminal and civil action against a number of individuals and companies, including chartered accounts and attorneys. It finds VBS beyond saving, "corrupt and rotten to the core" – and says that "there is hardly a person in its employ in any position of authority who is not, in some way or other, complicit" in the looting.
Here are 5 things from the report "The Great Bank Heist" that shocked us.
The average amount ‘gratuitously received from VBS’ was R905,000 per entity per month.
The report identifies 53 people and companies which, between them, and over the course of a little more than three years, received R1.9 billion from VBS – or an average of just about R905,000 each per month.
The report carefully lists these as “gratuitous payments” rather than outright bribes or theft, but does so in the context of trying to figure out the scale of the looting at VBS.
Top among the individuals are Tshifhiwa Matodzi, the former chairperson of the bank, which the report finds personally received, directly and indirectly, R326 million during that three-year period.
VBS seems to have bought influence from mortal political enemies at the same time.
VBS CEO Andile Ramavhunga (who said nobody ever told him about the epic level of fraud at his bank) testified that he ordered a payment of R1.5 million to a “Dudu Myeni Foundation” on the basis that “they were going to make our life easier” while trying to land a R1 billion deposit from the Passenger Rail Agency of SA.
“I understand that there is no entity known as the Dudu Myeni Foundation. I assume that Ramavhunga intended to refer to the Jacob G Zuma Foundation, which is chaired by Myeni,” says Motau.
The report also identifies Brian Shivambu, apparently the brother of the EFF’s Floyd Shivambu, as a recipient of undue largess totalling more than R16 million.
Zuma and Shivambu's parties are not the greatest of friends.
At least four people have already confessed to huge bribes, or fraud, or both, including the police’s top accountant.
When VBS was liquidated it, associated companies, and associated individuals raged and fumed about what they described as false allegations and heavy-handed intervention at the behest of white-owned companies trying to undermine a growing competitor.
See also: VBS says it was 'targeted' because it was a fast-growing threat – and shouldn't have been because it was advancing radical economic transformation
Its defenders included the third largest party in Parliament, the EFF.
But faced with cross-examination, the confessions started to come in.
Paul Magula, a high-flying former Public Investment Corporation (PIC) executive, first denied, then admitted to receiving “a total amount in excess of R7.6 million in order to buy his silence”.
Ernest Nesane, a lawyer and PIC executive, likewise first strongly argued his innocence, then admitted to receiving “a total amount in excess of R7.2 million in order to buy his silence”.
Phalaphala Ramikosi, a chartered accountant and the now-suspended chief financial officer of the SA Police Service, admitted he had received payments totalling R750,000 – “for doing absolutely nothing”.
Philip Truter, VBS’s chief financial officer, “testified that he was an essential participant in the manipulation of VBS’ banking systems”. He said he had been promised a “bonus” of R5 million, but only actually paid R2 million.
A KPMG partner solicited – and got – a fake letter from a bank to cover his tracks.
The report is scathing about Sipho Malaba, the former KPMG audit partner who was responsible for the VBS audit, alleging that he had tried to hide huge loans he received from VBS, and tried to lie in various ways about the nature of those loans.
When KPMG started investigating his relationship with the bank “he obtained a fraudulent letter from VBS to put KPMG off the scent”, the report holds.
The letter, from VBS’ chief risk officer, said Malaba had only an arm’s length relationship with VBS, and that his accounts were all "in good standing”. In fact he had missed virtually all the payments due on his huge debts.
Malaba himself, the report says, conceded that the letter “contained various obvious misrepresentations”.
Yet what was then still a going bank wrote it, and Malaba apparently thought it would fly.
In June the Mail & Guardian reported that Malaba had demanded R30 million from KPMG for what his lawyer said was defamation and damage to his dignity. According to the Motau report he received R34 million from VBS.
The actual methods used to allegedly steal money were, at heart, ludicrously simple.
Even though nearly R2 billion was allegedly disappeared from VBS, the methods of fraud Motau describes in his report are not subtle, or hard to detect.
In many cases, Motau says, VBS simply wrote car or home loans, then turned a blind eye when no payments were made on those.
“There are also very large overdraft facilities where no amounts were ever paid into the accounts and the facility limits simply increased to permit the escalating out flows,” he says.
In a caper centred on what Motau calls "the Eagle Canyon spreadsheet”, VBS chairperson Tshifhiwa Matodzi simply instructed the bank to create around R450 million for himself and associates.
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