Seven-year jail term for former VBS Bank CFO Phillip Truter

07 October 2020 - 13:01
By ernest mabuza AND Ernest Mabuza
Former VBS Mutual Bank CFO Phillip Truter at the Palm Ridge magistrate's court on Wednesday. He has been jailed after reaching a plea and sentence agreement with the state.
Image: Ernest Mabuza Former VBS Mutual Bank CFO Phillip Truter at the Palm Ridge magistrate's court on Wednesday. He has been jailed after reaching a plea and sentence agreement with the state.

Former VBS Mutual Bank chief financial officer Phillip Truter was on Wednesday sentenced to an effective seven years in prison for his role in the looting of the bank.

Truter was the eighth suspect who appeared in the Johannesburg Specialised Commercial Crimes Court, sitting at the Palm Ridge magistrate's court, in connection with the looting of the bank. When he made his first appearance in July, Truter indicated he intended on pleading guilty to the charges he was facing.

Truter faced six counts: two of fraud and one count each of money laundering, corruption, racketeering and failure to submit a tax return.

The prosecution on Wednesday first requested the separation of trials in respect of Truter. The court granted the application.

Truter reached a plea and sentence agreement with the state, whereby he pleaded guilty to all six counts.

He admitted that though he claimed that the financial statements of the bank for the year ending March 2017 were accurate, he knew that the statement of the financial position was false.

“The accused does not have any excuse in law for his actions,” prosecutor Hein van der Merwe read from the agreement.

He also admitted to offering to accept a gratification of R5m from former VBS chairperson Tshifhiwa Matodzi.

Van der Merwe said in terms of a sentence, all counts should be treated as one and that Truter should be sentenced to a 10-year jail term, three years of which would be suspended for five years.

The court said it was satisfied that the sentence was just and competent and confirmed it as the sentence of the court.

Truter's former co-accused included ex-VBS chairperson Tshifhiwa Calvin Matodzi, CEO Andile Ramavhunga, former treasurer Phophi Mukhodobwane, and former non-executive board members Ernest Nesane and Paul Magula. The former CFO of the SA Police Service, Phalaphala Avhashoni Ramikosi, and former KPMG engagement partner, Sipho Malaba, were also arrested.

'Such honesty is welcomed'

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) welcomed the judgment in Truter's case and said this meant the prosecution was more ready than it was before.

Spokesperson Sipho Ngwema said Truter has undertaken to cooperate with the state’s case, which was investigated by the Hawks and guided by the NPA.

"The law enforcement agencies always encourage either whistle-blowers or accused persons who want to come clean to make a full, frank, honest and open disclosure about their involvement and their ill-gotten gains," he said.

He said there were times where, especially in the realm of corruption, when law enforcement needed the cooperation of insiders.

"Many of these schemes are fairly closed and only a very close inside group will have the know-how of the shenanigans that transpired. someone like Truter who decides to take responsibility for his actions will always be encouraged to talk to the state and such honesty is welcomed."

Ngwema said when the seven other accused appeared in court earlier this year, they were served with the indictment, signalling that the state was ready to proceed with the case.

Hawks spokesperson Brig Hangwani Mulaudzi also welcomed the conviction and said it will send a strong message that law enforcement officers have a strong case against the seven other accused.

Mulaudzi said investigations relating to VBS continue and there was likely to be more arrests.

Their trial will continue on Thursday.