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Whispers from inside the wreckage of VBS Mutual Bank suggest the bank’s rapid disintegration is far dirtier than anyone could have suspected. On March 11, the small bank, which first opened its doors as the Venda Building Society in 1982, was put under curatorship. It had 23,000 clients including 7,688 stokvels. Eleven days later, new curator Anoosh Rooplal wrote a starkly apocalyptic report, revealing that the bank’s accounts might as well have been conjured up by former Steinhoff CEO Markus Jooste over a bottle of merlot. Rooplal’s findings included that the R1.8bn held in VBS’s suspense accounts "may be a fictitious creation of deposits on the banking system", there were possible "fraudulent transactions" designed to siphon money from the bank, and nine of its largest 20 borrowers weren’t repaying their loans. To make it worse, VBS’s liquid cash was just R24.7m — even though the ostensible deposits with the bank were supposedly R2.9bn. Then again, who really knew? Rooplal wasn’t ...

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