N$60m in SA worker funds looted in SME Bank heist

24 January 2020 | Banking

A whopping N$60 million belonging to the South African Municipal Workers Union National Provident Fund was among the so-called investments that have gone missing as part of the SME Bank loot.

The Mail & Guardian this week reported that the N$60 million payment was made into an SME Bank account without written permission from the retirement fund. According to affidavits before the Namibian High Court, former SME Bank CEO, Zimbabwean Tawanda Mumvuma, on 12 October 2016 wrote to the managing director of JM Busha Asset Managers with an instruction to transfer N$60 million into the Namibian bank.

This amount was duly transferred from an account held at the VBS Mutual Bank one day later. That same day, Mumvuma signed a promissory note in favour of JM Busha, thus creating a liability of N$60 million for the SME Bank to JM Busha Asset Managers.

The Mail & Guardian reported that despite the SME Bank now being in liquidation, Joseph Busha, CEO of the investment fund, remains adamant that the N$60 million can be recovered, with interest.

In an interview with the SME Bank liquidators David Bruni and Ian McLaren last October, Busha contended that he may have been defrauded by Mumvuma.

Principal officer of the South African pension fund Themba Mfeka is quoted by the Mail & Guardia that part of the fund's 'investment' in the SME Bank is guaranteed by the Namibian government and directors of the fund.

Mfeka further claimed that there is litigation against the SME Bank's directors.

An anonymous source in Namibia denied Mfeka's claims.

The ruse

Tania Pearson, former SME Bank legal advisor, retained to assist in the liquidation process in court documents, states that the JM Busha 'investment' and others were attempts to cover up the loot.

Financial records and bank statements show that between December 2013 and January 2017 at least N$247.6 million was transferred out of the SME Bank's accounts held at Standard Bank and FNB Namibia to alleged recipients of the stolen funds.

A lot of these illicit payments were concealed as either for computer hardware or building costs, and when excessive amounts became difficult to justify, the fraudsters started to call the payments 'investments'.

The cover-up

During June 2016, the SME Bank's external auditor, BDO Namibia, questioned a number of transactions and requested copies of investment agreements.

Bank of Namibia (BoN) governor Iipumbu Shiimi also started to make enquiries, but received no feedback from the SME Bank.

Pressure on the bank, however, was mounting, at which point Mumvuma, Mauwane Kotane of Mamepe Capital (to which SME Bank allegedly made a number of investments), as well as Andile Ramavhunga, CEO of the [also looted] South African VBS Mutual Bank, 'devised' a scheme to pull funds from elsewhere back into the SME Bank accounts.

This led to the milking of – amongst others – the N$60 million from the South African municipal pension fund.

Pearson stated that Mumvuma, Kotane and Ramavhunga created documents in November 2016 to represent “to all and sundry”, including the BoN and BDO, that N$57 million was repaid to the SME Bank from a so-called investment held at VBS Mutual Bank.

“[They] had by then in fact created a further liability for the SME Bank,” Pearson declared.


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