Hawks have 65 witness statements relating to VBS ‘bank heist’ so far
The NPA says it is mulling racketeering charges against those implicated in the financial scandal
The Hawks told parliament's finance committee on Wednesday that statements from at least 65 potential witnesses had been obtained as part of its investigation into the looting of VBS Mutual Bank.
And the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) told MPs that it was considering racketeering charges against those implicated in the financial scandal that saw the collapse of the pro-poor financial institution.
Hawks chief, advocate Godfrey Lebeya, was part of a team of law-enforcement agencies‚ including the NPA and the South African Reserve Bank‚ that presented a progress report on their criminal investigation into the R1.9bn looting spree by bank executives and politically connected individuals.
Lebeya said preliminary witness statements had been obtained from 65 individuals familiar with how “The Great Bank Heist” took place and this did not include any of the 53 politicians and executives and other associates implicated in advocate Terry Motau's report.
"The statements from the individuals that we ourselves have taken [are] 65‚" said Lebeya.
In a prosecution-led investigation‚ Lebeya said they had dedicated 10 police investigators to the VBS probe.
Acting NPA head Silas Ramaite said at least five senior prosecutors and top officials from the agency's Asset Forfeiture Unit were part of the multipronged investigation, which also included the Financial Intelligence Centre.
Ramaite said it was still too early to indicate which individuals were likely to be prosecuted but stated that the issue at hand was “bigger than fraud and theft”.
“There has been a lot of focus on the fraud and the theft that took place but the issue is actually much bigger than that, from a prosecution point of view.
“We have raised this with the prosecutions team and we're currently discussing it. It's in fact racketeering at its worst and that is in respect of the prevention of organised crime because it involves fraud and theft, and it also involved reckless trading, which is one of the lesser-enforced crimes in SA. Once the investigation is complete, we will then be able to start working on draft charges‚” Ramaite said.
Kuben Naidoo‚ deputy governor of the Reserve Bank and CEO of the Prudential Authority‚ said they had no choice but to apply for the liquidation of VBS once it became insolvent. Naidoo said he was not optimistic that a huge amount of money would be recovered once the liquidation process was concluded.
The Reserve Bank has approached the high court for the liquidation of VBS, and the matter is due to be heard on Tuesday.
The EFF has called for the mutual bank to be given a financial rescue package while the ANC appears to be divided on the matter.