South Africa

We are biting this big VBS elephant in chunks - NPA

Johanneburg - The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) said they were happy that men accused of looting over R2-billion from VBS bank had been granted the R100 000 bail each because that was the amount they had aimed for.

The men had claimed poverty and said they could only afford R10 000 bail when they appeared before Magistrate Brian Nemavhidi at the Palm Ridge Regional Court on Thursday, their pleas fell on deaf ears and bail was set at R100 000.

"What message will the Court be sending if the bail granted is R10 000?" Nemavhidi asked during the application.

The accused are Tshifhiwa Matodzi, the former VBS chairperson; Andile Ramavhunga, the former chief executive; Phophi Mukhodobwane, the former treasurer; Sipho Malaba, who was an auditor at KPMG; Lieutenant-General Avhsahoni Ramikosi, who was a non-executive director; and Ernest Nesane and Paul Magula, both of whom were representing the Public Investment Corporation as non-executive directors on the board.

Phillip Truter, who was the bank's chief financial officer at the time of the alleged plundering of funds, was not in court on Thursday as he was in self-quarantine in line with Covid-19 health regulations.  He will join the others in court next week. 

All of the accused indicated that they would plead not guilty to the 47 charges of fraud, corruption, racketeering, theft and money laundering should the counts make it to trial.

Speaking after the day's proceedings ended, the NPA's Sipho Ngwema said they were ready to proceed to trial in what he called this leg of the VBS heist investigation. 

"We are confident that, after the matter sits on October 8, we will be ready to proceed to trial. 

"We are biting this big (VBS) elephant in chunks," Ngwema said. 

He added that there were different legs to the VBS probe, which are all being investigated concurrently, but will be prosecuted in stages. 

"What we are not going to do is give running commentary on the other cases," he stressed. 

Prosecutor Hein van der Merwe said the State had decided not to oppose bail, saying he believed the accused would report to trial. 

"The decision not to oppose bail was not one that was taken lightly... The ultimate purpose for bail is to secure the presence of the accused for the duration of the trial," van der Merwe said.

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