Innocent beauty or tax dodger?

2014-02-23 14:00

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Bikini model Candice-Jean van der Merwe has become the beautiful face of a decade-old tax dispute involving her ­father’s various companies and luxury assets.

The SA Revenue Service (Sars) is looking into a $15.3?million (R164?million) “gift” the 21-year-old beauty claims she ­received from an unnamed Arabian admirer at a bash in the Seychelles late last year.

But their real target appears to be her 52-year-old father, Gary, who is known to work in aviation and whom the Scorpions ­described as “one of the most sought-after high-flyer criminals in Cape Town” in 2004.

He has managed to evade arrest and lives in the historic Zonnekus ­Mansion on Woodbridge Island in ­Milnerton, Cape Town.

This week at the Western Cape High Court, City Press got a glimpse at a thick file crammed with documents that chronicle a complicated web of alleged white-collar crime spearheaded by Van der Merwe.

Sars hopes to finally nail the controversial businessman after the court ruled that a tax investigation into his financial affairs will go ahead. The mysterious $15.3?million “gift” forms part of this investigation.

Famous for her signature steamy swimsuit ­apparel, for the court appearance on Monday, Candice-Jean opted for a leopard-print outfit. She ­accompanied her father, whose attempt to quash the tax inquiry with an urgent interdict was dismissed by Judge Anton Veldhuizen on Monday. Leave to appeal was refused on ­Friday.

Veldhuizen appeared unmoved by ­Candice-Jean’s laments in papers filed before the court that “since September last year my life has been devastated by draconian Sars ­actions”. She also voiced resentment at the prospect of being grilled by Sars’ legal team, which she said was costing the taxman R135?000 in legal fees a day.

Court documents warn the model, who lives in Fresnaye on the slopes of Table Mountain, not to dispose of flashy assets, including an Audi R8 Spyder convertible sports car and a SUV Land Rover Evoque.

The 1.74m honey blonde wore a floral string bikini in the FHM calendar in 2011 and red satin underwear in the magazine’s September 2012 issue.

She told FHM that she likes to keep in shape through regular exercise, such as weight training, running, pilates, yoga and core strengthening, preferably to the beat of The Fray or The Script.

Asked about her sexiest feature, she replied: “I’d have to say my eyes … They’re the window to my soul!”

The magazine asked her to reveal a secret about herself. She said: “Hmmm, that’s for me to know and nobody else to find out, sorry!”

Now, her family’s potentially dirty laundry is being aired in public.

Sars spokesperson Adrian Lackay said they did not want to jeopardise the long-running case by revealing details.

He said: “Sars can confirm that the applicants, including Mr Gary van der Merwe, have brought an urgent application to the Cape High Court to contest the commencement of a tax inquiry. On Monday this week, the Cape High court ruled in favour of Sars for the tax inquiry to proceed.”

Court papers show that the now-defunct Directorate of Special Operations, the Scorpions, first instituted an investigation into “allegations of fraud and of theft against Van der Merwe and his companies” in April 2003.

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