/ 13 July 2018

ANC bash caught up in VBS web

President Cyril Ramaphosa arrives for the ANC’s gala dinner
President Cyril Ramaphosa arrives for the ANC’s gala dinner

The ANC may be entangled in alleged fraudulent transactions involving embattled VBS Mutual Bank.

These details have emerged from the ongoing investigation into the bank’s collapse, contained in civil claims launched by VBS curator Anoosh Rooplal against VBS shareholder Vele Investments and former bank officials.

Bank records — included in court papers — of a shelf company named Robvet, which was allegedly used as a conduit by individuals including senior executives at VBS to make fraudulent payments, shows that an amount of R250 000 marked as “ANC gala dinner event” was paid on January 6 this year.

This was about a week before the ANC’s gala dinner at East London’s International Convention Centre to mark its 106th birthday celebrations.

Rooplal says in court submissions that, since early 2016, the Robvet account had been used to pay “commissions” to third parties who assisted VBS in raising deposits from municipalities.

ANC spokesperson Pule Mabe confirmed that the party had received the amount as payment for a table at its gala event. But this was done through the Progressive Business Forum and, at the time, the ANC was not aware that this money was from a questionable source. “If the ANC had been aware … it would not have accepted the donation,” he said.

He added, however, that the matter was now before the courts and was therefore sub judice.

The records also show that Moshate Investment Group, a company owned by former Limpopo ANC Youth League leader Kabelo Matsepe, was paid R8.4‑million between July and November 2017. Other entries referencing Moshate Investments showed payments totalling R4.2‑million by VBS through Robvet between July 2017 and January this year.

Matsepe this week repeated what he had told weekend newspapers, that he received a commission to facilitate municipal deposits into VBS. But he denied some of the transactions, claiming that they had never reflected in his account.

“I did work with those people but I think they also used my company’s name but changed bank account details where they deposited money. I have looked through my bank statements and some of the amounts, I am hearing them for the first time from you as the media. I have never received such big amounts of money,” said Matsepe.

According to the court papers Tshifhiwa Matodzi, the erstwhile chairperson of VBS’s board, is listed as a previous director of Robvet.

When the Mail & Guardian contacted Robvet’s only current director listed in the company records, Fhatuwani Ravhuhali, he said he had no knowledge of the transactions and had never used the account.

“I think the best person to speak to is Mr Maphosa; he is the one who is responsible for this company [Robvet]. To cut the story short, what happened is that he was working for VBS and I think the forensic guys spoke to him on Monday; for me to come up with another version won’t be such a good thing. What happened with the account is that I opened the account but I never used it. What I can suggest to you is that you get hold of Solomon [Maphosa],” said Ravhuhali.

Maphosa was a senior manager at VBS who left the bank after it was put under curatorship.

In the past week, Rooplal has applied to the court to sequestrate Vele Investments chair and former VBS operations chief Robert Madzonga, along with other senior officials at the bank. Rooplal has also applied to liquidate Vele Investments — the bank’s largest shareholder — in an attempt to recover funds for VBS.

Madzonga is accused of being complicit in a scheme to defraud VBS along with former Vele chair Matodzi, chief executive Andile Ramavhunga, chief financial officer Philip Truter, and treasury and capital management head Phophi Mukhodobwane.

The alleged fraudsters were able to purchase properties and high-end vehicles, including Mercedes G63s, a Ferrari and a Lamborghini.

Rooplal alleges that the perpetrators and Vele jointly benefited from the scheme to defraud VBS of more than R1.5‑billion, which led to the bank’s severe liquidity crisis and it being placed under curatorship.

In court documents, Rooplal outlines how the scheme to defraud VBS worked. The scheme relied heavily on creating fictitious deposits and was, he said, as pervasive as it was “unsophisticated”. Robvet benefited from these faked transactions, according to Rooplal.

Using the bank’s electronic banking platform, a fictitious deposit was created with a general ledger entry. Then “suspense accounts” were created at VBS to place the fictitious deposits, from where they were allegedly credited to the perpetrators’ accounts or entities related to them, or to Vele accounts or those of related entities. Authorisation would then be given to release the funds from the VBS accounts into accounts held at other banks.

But, as the curator notes, the outflow of money from the bank was real money that had been placed there by the bank’s depositors — predominantly individuals, stokvels, burial societies, the Public Investment Corporation and municipalities.

Among these is Ntanganedzeni Masidwali, the treasurer of the Langanani Burial Society who deposited more than R116 000 with the bank. When the wheels finally came off, desperate members were forced to withdraw R1 000 a day. “From that day on, me and several members would depart from home at about 12 midnight to VBS premises and we would find over 100 clients already in the queue,” said Masidwali.

Throughout the ordeal the burial society received no communication from the bank. It now hopes to secure its remaining money from VBS and place it with an established bank.

The PIC has also been implicated in the bank’s implosion, having extended a R350‑million line of credit to VBS, allegedly after a R5‑million bribe had been paid to a PIC official.

Deputy Finance Minister Mondli Gungubele said he had asked for a report on the matter. “If there is information before us that makes us to do further investigation, we will not hesitate to do that.” — Additional reporting by Matuma Letsoalo and Rolivhuwa Sadik