Philip Truter, the disgraced former chief financial officer of VBS Mutual Bank, has entered into a plea bargain with the National Prosecuting Authority and will testify against his co-accused in the R2-billion alleged fraud.
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This follows nearly a year of negotiations with prosecutors during which Truter has secured a reduction of his sentence to ten years, of which three will be suspended. He will also be held in a single cell “for safety reasons”.
Truter’s deal compares with a normal minimum sentence of 15 years for most of the six charges he faces. These range from money laundering to fraud, theft and corruption.
Truter agreed to provide a sworn statement and hundreds of pages of evidence, say sources in the NPA. He was convicted and jailed this morning after pleading guilty in accordance with his bargain in terms of section 105A of the Criminal Procedure Act.
The deal was accepted by the Palm Ridge magistrates court this morning.
Truter originally faced 22 different charges in the indictment produced by the NPA on 17 June. He potentially still faces the balance of the 22 charges (ie. 16 charges) if his testimony is judged to not be genuine. This is because the NPA is using a mechanism created under section 204 of the Criminal Procedure Act that allows it to not pursue a charge as a way to reward cooperation by an accused.
Now for the rest
Truter’s plea and conviction comes one day before his co-accused themselves appear in court to plead guilty or not guilty. This includes former VBS chairman and “mastermind” Tshifhiwa Matodzi, chief executive Andile Ramavhunga and treasurer Phophi Mukhodobwane.
Alongside them will be the Public Investment Corporation’s two former representatives to the VBS board, Paul Magula and Ernest Nesane. The last accused is Phalaphala Avhashoni Ramikosi, the former chief financial officer of the South African Police Service and also a former board member of VBS.
They face a collective 47 charges.
There were public signs that Truter had broken ranks with the rest of the VBS team before. He was the only one not arrested simultaneously with his co-accused on 17 June.
The reason given was that he was in isolation after coming into contact with someone infected with Covid-19. He was arrested the following week but one consequence is that he has not appeared in a court next to his co-accused and now likely never will.
AmaBhungane understands that it was in fact Truter’s repeated prevarication around his plea deal that had delayed the arrest of the VBS accused for several months.