VBS Heist: Hawks detectives' identities kept under wraps
Johannesburg - The Hawks have kept the identities of its team of highly experienced police detectives - whose responsibility is to arrest and prosecute all those who defrauded VBS Mutual Bank of more than R2 billion - under wraps.
The elite investigative unit has also centralised its probe in an apparent bid to avoid political interference, and meddling in their investigations.
The unit is also protecting its investigators against possible attacks by suspects or criminals who could try to block the probe.
This was revealed by Hawks spokesperson Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi on Wednesday, following growing concerns about the perceived lack of police action with no prosecutions in the VBS looting.
These sentiments grew stronger after the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria in November 2018 ordered that the Hawks and National Prosecuting Authority should execute imminent criminal prosecution of all those at the helm of the alleged VBS“Great Bank Heist”.
The curator Anoosh Rooplal, who was appointed in March 2018, was also ordered to oversee civil and criminal action against all those involved.
Reacting to the delays, Mulaudzi said: “We cannot at this stage talk about arrests until the investigations have been completed. It must be noted though that the VBS case has been dissected into groups to streamline the workflow.
“It will be futile to give details or progress of the probe in the public space, as this will hamper investigations,” Mulaudzi said.
He said the investigating teams “are always of interest to suspects and criminals” and “we cannot reveal this information. The teams are hard at work and they are doing so without fear or favour,” Mulaudzi pledged.
After the North Gauteng High Court ruling, various political parties lodged criminal cases with the police in the affected provinces of Limpopo, North West and Gauteng.
In North West, the incumbent Premier Job Mokgoro appointed auditing firm Sekela Xabiso, which found that senior officials in some of the province’s municipalities had invested R150million with VBS.
The auditors recommended action against the implicated officials, but some of them are still in senior positions in their municipalities.
Similarly in Gauteng, co-operative governance and traditional affairs MEC Lebogang Maile has demanded action against officials of Merafong Local Municipality and the West Rand District Municipality, who invested millions with VBS.
The alleged main perpetrator in Gauteng was just recently removed from both municipalities. In Limpopo, however, there have been more reports of killings of those who blew the whistle on VBS corruption, with no arrests of the alleged murderers.
It was also the province where high-profile ANC politicians - who held senior political positions in the affected municipalities - were linked to the corruption, but no formal criminal actions have been taken against them.
But according to Mulaudzi, their investigations have been ongoing since 2017, when tip-offs of corruption first began to take centre stage.
“It is prudent to place on record that there were no cases that were closed,” he said.