An in-depth investigation by amaBhungane has linked controversial businessman Zunaid Moti to an elaborate money-laundering and gold smuggling operation, involving the ill-fated VBS Mutual Bank.

Moti’s business empire worked with alleged underground financial operators channelling vast sums through his mining and property companies using complex smoke-and-mirrors transactions, reports amaBhungane.

In less than a year, well over R2bn moved through these mechanisms, funds mostly derived from investments by his former partner in Zimbabwe, the politically connected Kudakwashe Tagwirei. 

amaBhungane has been able to tie Moti to two separate money-moving operations using extensive documentation in the #MotiFiles leak and another unexpected source – the wreckage of  the doomed VBS Bank

It is the astonishing story of a gigantic hawala system that had been run out of VBS.

Despite its complexity, the picture ultimately boils down to this: vast amounts of money were channelled from Moti’s African Chrome Fields to a range of mysterious Zimbabwean entities (some linked to the country’s political leadership) under the guise of loans to a different Zimbabwean business partner, Patrick Chinondo.

At the same time, across the border, a mountain of money appeared in SA, flowing to Moti Group companies under the guise of ‘property loans’ that, on the surface, were unconnected to the Zimbabwean transactions.

A key intermediary was allegedly a well-known Moti associate from the underground financial world, a man widely known as 'Joe Dollars'.

VBS became a bridge between the different role-players in the two countries before the bank imploded in early 2018, suggesting these Moti transactions in Zimbabwe and SA were two sides of the same coin.

There is reason to suspect they formed a single scheme aimed, at the very least, at improperly exporting capital from Zimbabwe.

Moti denies and contests the basis for this suspicion.

And while Moti has defended these manoeuvres as legitimate and separate business deals, he faces one awkward hurdle: despite copious documentation, the partners he allegedly transacted with vociferously deny key aspects of his version.

The Moti Group was engaged in, at the very least, what looks like irregular cross-border capital transfer, claims amaBhungane.

The VBS hawala forms one part of that story although Moti and his collaborators have denied any knowledge of the VBS system.

Nonetheless, among the thousands of payments recorded in VBS statements are a set made to a number of Moti companies in late 2017 and early 2018 totalling just under R27m.

Given that VBS imploded at this point it seems reasonable to assume the channel would otherwise have continued to be used by Moti and many others.

Detailed amaBhungane investigation

Detailed amaBhungane investigation