Police make arrests in ‘great bank heist’ case in South Africa

South African authorities arrested four people in connection with the collapse of VBS Mutual Bank, which was allegedly looted of R1.9 billion ($111 million).

Four other suspects face arrest, including one who is infected with the coronavirus, and will be detained when they recover, Godfrey Lebeya, the head of the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation, also known as the Hawks, told reporters via a conference call Wednesday.

They face 47 charges including theft, fraud, corruption and money laundering.

Investigations into alleged crimes surrounding the failed lender are ongoing, with this round of arrests being “the first leg,” he said, without naming anyone. The suspects are expected to appear in court on Thursday.

VBS Mutual Bank was taken over by administrators amid allegations of fraud in March 2018.

A separate investigation into its collapse, commissioned by South Africa’s central bank and titled “The Great Bank Heist,” exposed wrongdoing by politically connected individuals who went on spending sprees buying luxury cars and charting helicopter flights with the savings of almost 23,000 retail depositors.

The arrests signify some progress by President Cyril Ramaphosa’s administration in turning around the scandal-tainted tenure of his predecessor, which was marked by the slow hollowing out of institutions like the Hawks.

While successful prosecutions take time, authorities are intent on finalizing the matter, and will oppose tactics to delay proceedings, said Shamila Batohi, the National Director of Public Prosecutions.

“The wheels of justice are turning,” she said. “The rule of law will prevail.”


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Police make arrests in ‘great bank heist’ case in South Africa