Sars wants boss to cough up R110m

2015-02-08 15:00

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Tax body says deputy commissioner must cough up millions for operations of rogue spy unit

The SA Revenue Service (Sars) wants its suspended deputy commissioner to pay back the money used for the operations of its alleged rogue spy unit.

A highly placed source told City Press Ivan Pillay had received a letter of demand for R110?million.

The source said the letter, sent to Pillay last month during his battle with Sars at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration, says the amount was for the operations of the high-risk investigation unit, as well as its predecessor, the national research group.

Asked about the letter of demand, Sars commissioner Tom Moyane neither confirmed nor denied that Pillay was issued with it.

“Speak to my human resources team. I don’t deal with the media,” he said.

But Moyane, who joined Sars in September last year, did say he was not the one who had initiated the allegations against Pillay and the alleged spy unit led by Johann van Loggerenberg.

“The allegations were there when I joined.”

Sars employment relations executive Luther Lebelo could not “confirm or deny such claims since we regard any matter of that nature as legally privileged and private between the employer and the employee”.

He said: “The media, including your paper, continues with this unfortunate and disingenuous narrative that Moyane came to Sars to purge some senior employees. We wish to once again reiterate that such a narrative is untrue and malicious.”

A copy of Pillay’s disciplinary charge sheet, dated February 5, which a source close to Moyane said was served on Pillay this week, reveals that he is facing 10 charges ranging from corruption and dishonesty to contravening the Sars code of conduct, the Tax Act and the Public Finance Management Act.

The charge sheet, a copy of which is in City Press’ possession, says that by establishing the spy unit, he “elevated Sars staff costs with over R106?million”. Pillay is also accused of paying R3?million in severance pay to a former head of the unit, Andries Janse van Rensburg, to secure his silence. The charge sheet says this shows Pillay “was party to corruption by paying a bribe” and it amounted to fruitless and wasteful expenditure.

The charge sheet also reveals that the high-risk investigation unit bought a variety of spy equipment, including listening devices that could be implanted in car keys and pens.

The equipment included night vision binoculars, vehicle trackers, “eavesdropping equipment” and cellphone jammers.

The unit is also said to have acquired intelligence- gathering equipment including a hand-held thermal imaging camera used for covert surveillance, long-range night vision surveillance observation devices and a gamma radiation detector.

However, sources close to Pillay said the devices were bought 18 months ago for the now-disbanded Anti-Corruption Task Team.

In the charge sheet, Pillay is also accused of irregularly persuading his former boss, Oupa Magashula, to grant his application for early retirement on full benefits. The application is said to have been coupled with a re-engagement on a fixed-term contract of three years. The charge sheet says this amounted to fraud and corruption.

However, two sources close to Pillay said this week that the allegations were baseless and were founded on hearsay from disgruntled former employees who were dismissed for misconduct.

“One of the people who is making these claims was arrested for rhino poaching and another has a case pending in court. They came up with the allegations in 2010, but failed to prove the existence of the items, rogue unit or the place where the brothel was.”

Documents show that Pillay denied the existence of the unit at a meeting with the State Security Agency (SSA) in 2010.

A source who attended the meeting said: “In 2009 and 2010 the SSA investigated the allegations made against the unit, including that it was running a brothel and spying on politicians. Sars provided a response to the agency and requested feedback every year after that, but got no reply.”

City Press has learnt from at least two sources that Pillay, strategic planning and risk executive Peter Richer and Pillay’s adviser, Yolisa Pikie, wrote to Moyane this week saying it was clear he wanted them out of Sars.

They said that the charges against them were just a ploy to get them to resign.

» This article was updated after first published.

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