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In reading Advocate Terry Motau’s forensic report on VBS Mutual Bank released last week, the question that stuck in my mind was; how did they think they’d get away with it? VBS had bribed municipal officials to direct deposits into its coffers that could not possibly be paid back. It was lying in its monthly Reserve Bank returns. The bank had made up deposits so that it could buy businesses from associates and “lend” money to shareholders to be splurged on cars, houses and a helicopter. Eventually, the thing that set off alarm bells was that it began defaulting on its daily settlements in the interbank settlement system. Any way you look at it, there was no chance that the house of cards could stand for much longer. Or was there? Towards the end, the report reveals, VBS was desperate to raise money. It resorted to increasingly frantic efforts to get R1bn in deposits from the Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa), greasing palms, including a planned R30m-R40m to bribe Prasa officials. ...

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