VBS loot used to buy high-calibre rifles to protect bank's looting kingpins

Thousands blown on dozens of guns to guard executives

04 November 2018 - 00:05 By CAIPHUS KGOSANA
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The former executive chair of Vele, Tshifhiwa Matodzi.
The former executive chair of Vele, Tshifhiwa Matodzi.
Image: Mduduzi Ndzingi

Money looted from VBS Mutual Bank was used to buy high-calibre rifles for the personal protection of executives who ran the bank into the ground.

The Sunday Times has seen a quotation and an invoice showing that Vele Investments, the bank's majority shareholder, bought a range of lethal weapons and ammunition for just over R300,000.

Sources said the guns were for the personal protection of the implicated executives.

But the final invoice shows that the guns were not collected, even though they were paid for.

According to those with knowledge of the transaction, the weapons were bought for Bestvest Protection, the company that provided security services for Vele executives. They were bought on the instructions of Tshifhiwa Matodzi - the former executive chair of Vele who has been named in advocate Terry Motau's "Great Bank Heist" report as the mastermind behind a bold scam that siphoned up to R2bn out of VBS.

The invoice for the firearms was ultimately settled by VBS bank.

Among the weapons purchased are:

  • Four Glock automatic pistols valued at R55,000;
  • Twelve 9mm Glock pistols valued at R11,900;
  • Four DM4 standard rifles for R70,800;
  • Four RONI carbine conversion kits (which convert high-calibre weapons into light automatic rifles) for R46,000; and
  • Dashprod telescopics for R23,000.

The weapons were purchased last year in September at a top firearms shop in Johannesburg. The firearms are unlicensed and have still not been collected from the gunshop that sold them, but a security expert said it would be illegal for a private client such as Vele or Matodzi to license them in their own names instead of the company that would use them.

Matodzi is known to travel with a heavy private security detail, which includes two escort cars shielding his own vehicle front and back.

"They had their own private security outfit. They bought themselves private protection using VBS money," said an insider with intimate knowledge of the transaction, who asked not to be named.

But another source close to Matodzi said the weapons were not a personal transaction, but were bought by the security company for the protection of Vele Investments executives and the company's assets, including offices, properties and vehicles. He could not say who the weapons were licensed to.

"They [the weapons] were not for Matodzi. They were for Vele."

Stefan Badenhorst, COO of the Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority, said the law was clear that such weapons could only be licensed to a security company in terms of the Firearms Controls Act.

It is the responsibility of the security company to provide its own equipment, especially when such high-calibre firearms are involved, he said.

Vele is under liquidation and Matodzi has gone to ground, referring all requests for comment on the company to the liquidators.

Ndisha Makhari, director of Bestvest Protection, did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Meanwhile, ANC Limpopo treasurer Danny Msiza has written to the party's secretary-general, Ace Magashule, to protest against a recommendation by its integrity commission that all party members implicated in the VBS looting scandal step aside from all leadership positions until they clear their names.

Msiza is named in the "Great Bank Heist" report as having assisted municipalities in Limpopo to make deposits at VBS, for a fee.

A total of 10 municipalities from Limpopo invested R1.5bn in the bank.

Msiza said the integrity commission had not asked him to appear before it to explain his role, as promised by its chair, George Mashamba.

"The absolute truth and only truth is that the integrity commission has not followed through on the decision of the national officials that we be invited to make representations before its recommendations can be forwarded to the NEC [national executive committee].

"I am baffled and deeply hurt by the subversion of a due process by the integrity commission," Msiza writes.

Mashamba told the Sunday Times that the commission had received Msiza's letter and would take his appeal to the NEC for a final decision.

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