Screengrab of the VBS Mutual Bank website

Johannesburg - A strong push is under way to recover hidden assets from former VBS Mutual Bank executives.

The Hawks on Wednesday confirmed they would continue investigating the country’s biggest bank heist following the final sequestration of two of the institution’s former bosses.

Hawks spokesperson Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi said the probe in the R1.5billion scandal was still a top priority.

”We are not in the position to divulge the progress of the investigation in the public space. We will communicate once the investigation has been completed,” Mulaudzi said.

A trustee appointed by the Master of the High Court has also been tasked with conducting a proper inquiry into VBS’s former chief executive Andile Ramavhunga and his wife Zanele’s affairs to find assets that they might have allegedly hidden.

Judge Keoagile Matojane of the Johannesburg High Court said that the trustee of the Ramavhungas’ joint estate, which has now been placed under final sequestration, might find some of the assets of the insolvent estate were concealed.

”VBS has discharged the onus of establishing that there is a reason to believe that the sequestration will be to the advantage of creditors,” Matojane said.

In a separate judgment, the judge also ruled that the trustee of VBS’s erstwhile acting chief operations officer Robert Madzonga’s estate also had to conduct an inquiry into his affairs that might lead to the recovery of money he owed to the liquidated institution.

Madzonga, an attorney, was meanwhile blasted by Judge Matojane for attempting to mislead the registrar of banks by withholding information that indicted his character, including details of the Hawks probe into his role in the ICT Indaba sponsorship when he was MTN’s chief corporate officer in 2013.

“He also sought to create an impression that his tenure as COO of VBS was of (a) short duration in order to distance himself from any involvement in the fraud and theft committed against VBS, particularly in 2017 and thereafter,” said Judge Matojane. He found that it was clear that Madzonga participated and benefited from the VBS fraudulent scheme.

“Had Madzonga not appropriated the proceeds VBS would not have suffered the loss to the extent it did,” he said. Judge Matojane added as a concurrent wrongdoer, he was liable for the full amount lost, which stood at more than R1.52bn.

The VBS scandal between 2017 and last year led to depositors, including Venda residents, business and public institutions such as municipalities and the Public Investment Corporation losing millions of rand.

After that, VBS suffered a severe liquidity crisis which forced the SA Reserve Bank to place it under curatorship. The appointment of advocate Terry Motau to investigate and uncover serious irregularities and widescale fraud was also deemed crucial. 

Earlier this year, the SA Institute of Chartered Accountants (Saica) disciplinary committee ordered the cancellation of former VBS and Vele Investments chairperson Tshifhiwa Matodzi, a CA, of his membership.

At the time, Saica indicated that Ramavhunga, also a CA, was on its radar after VBS initiated high court proceedings to have him sequestrated. Estates of other former VBS executives, such as Matodzi, head of Treasury Phophi Mukhodobwane and chief financial officer Phillipus Truter have also finally been sequestrated.

Madzonga could not be reached for comment on Wednesday and attempts to contact Ramavhunga and his wife were unsuccessful. Responding to the judgment, liquidator Anoosh Rooplal said he was pursuing outstanding amounts on several VBS overdrafts, mortgages and other debts.

“In some cases, the liquidator has entered into payment arrangements,” he said.

Political Bureau