Masterminds behind $130 million South African banking scandal jailed


The man who masterminded a $130 million (£100 million) banking scandal that sparked national outrage in South Africa has been sentenced to 15 years in prison, the country’s police said.

Tshifhiwa Matodzi was the chairman of VBS Mutual Bank, which went bankrupt in 2018 after years of looting.

The scam extended from impoverished rural villages to government circles and targeted ordinary South Africans.

Matodzi pleaded guilty in court on Wednesday to 33 charges including corruption, theft, fraud, money laundering and extortion.

The former bank boss’ combined sentence is 495 years, as he was given 15 years for each charge. However, the court has ruled that the sentences should run concurrently, meaning he will serve 15 years in prison.

A report published in 2018 after the central bank ordered an investigation into the scandal called it “the great bank robbery.”

For many years, VBS was a modest entity: a mutual bank, largely owned by its savers, that helped rural communities living on land controlled by traditional rulers to secure mortgages or save for family funerals.

But with dizzying speed, VBS was reportedly transformed into a slush fund for corrupt politicians, local government leaders and their business cronies – through a breathtakingly elaborate and cynical pyramid scheme.

The bank’s owners were accused of bribing local administrators in some of South Africa’s poorest and most dysfunctional municipalities, persuading them to funnel their budgets, or pretend to do so, into the VBS coffers in exchange for cash and gifts.

It was only when VBS was placed under the control of South Africa’s central bank that investigators discovered the full extent of the alleged looting and political intrigue.

VBS was liquidated in November 2018.

Matodzi was accused of masterminding the plunder, with the support of a team of highly qualified accountants and lawyers and a dizzying network of apparently fraudulent front companies and subcontractors.

Although numerous people have been arrested in the VBS case over the years, only Matodzi and former VBS CFO Phillip Truter have been found guilty and convicted.

The South African police’s elite Hawks unit, the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI), which is charged with investigating corruption, said it is also pursuing “other suspects” in the VBS case.

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