Suspended Sars boss defied ANC

2015-02-16 06:00

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Suspended SA Revenue Service (Sars) deputy commissioner Ivan Pillay defied the ANC to a point where the party was preparing to sue Sars.

The threat, which came a few days before last May’s general election, followed the confiscation of 18?500 ANC T-shirts because no excise duty had been paid on them.

After several meetings between ANC leaders and Pillay, as well as with other senior Sars officials, the ANC then threatened to take Sars to court.

A notice of motion, a copy of which is in City Press’ possession, shows the party planned an urgent application to the North Gauteng High Court seeking an order compelling Sars to release the T-shirts, worth millions of rands, which were to be used for electioneering.

The document states that the T-shirts, bearing a photograph of President Jacob Zuma, were brought into the country by a company called Mpisi Trading 74. They were meant to be distributed at the ANC’s Siyanqoba rally at FNB Stadium on May 4.

Mpisi Trading 74 is owned by Khulubuse Zuma’s business partner, Jen-Chih “Robert” Huang. Khulubuse is President Zuma’s nephew.

The notice of motion regarding the T-shirts, which was drafted by President Zuma’s lawyer Michael Hulley of Hulley & Associates in May, contains a founding affidavit by ANC election campaign manager Mandla Dlamini.

In it, Dlamini says the T-shirts were “imported for the ANC” and if they weren’t released, they would be “worthless as no good commercial or any other purpose will be served by [Sars] refusing to release” them.

A highly placed Sars source who attended a meeting at Luthuli House told City Press that Pillay made it very clear to ANC treasurer-general Zweli Mkhize that if the tax obligations were not settled, the T-shirts would not be released.

“Pillay is a comrade and has good struggle credentials, and is well respected in the ANC. However, it appears the comrades were not happy about the decision not to release the T-shirts. There was that resentment against him and the leadership of Sars,” he said.

Two sources familiar with the discussion said although documents were ready to be filed in court, Advocate Nazeer Cassim, who does work for the ANC, advised against continuing with the legal action because “it would embarrass” the party.

Sars wanted R45?million in excise duty and the ANC finally paid it. Cassim brokered the agreement, which resulted in the ANC not filing its motion.

Sars commissioner Tom Moyane and Sars spokesperson Luther Lebelo were not available for comment yesterday. Hulley also did not respond to calls and messages.

ANC spokesperson Zizi Kodwa said the ANC never threatened to take Sars to court.

Pillay, who faces a R110?million civil claim from Sars, remains suspended and is due to appear again before a disciplinary hearing on February 26.

He was suspended in December for his alleged involvement in creating a rogue unit that spied on politicians and criminals. He faces 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 says that by establishing the spy unit, Pillay “elevated staff costs with over R106?million”.

He is also accused of paying R3?million to former unit head Andries Janse van Rensburg to secure his silence, which Sars says amounts to a bribe.

Huang, a South African-based Taiwanese national, has been the focus of investigations by both Sars and the Hawks. In June last year, Sars froze R541?million of his assets.

Huang has taken Sars to the North Gauteng High Court, which he has asked to declare the Sars search warrant and the allegations of tax violations null and void. The case will go ahead as early as next month.

Huang claims procedural flaws in the obtaining of the search and seizure warrant.

In opposing papers, Sars said there were grounds to believe that Huang failed “in one or more or all” respects to comply with his tax obligations, and committed the offences. Huang is a well-known ANC donor.

In his documents, now before the North Gauteng High Court for the freezing of his assets, Huang denies allegations that Mpisi Trading 74’s tax returns contained irregularities and inconsistencies. He claims Sars failed to prove that the material seized was likely to be used as evidence of tax noncompliance.

Huang further accused Sars of invading his privacy and seizing documents that fell outside the financial periods authorised in the warrant. He asked the court to order that these documents be returned to Mpisi.

Three senior Sars sources said Huang’s tax matters were among the high-profile cases that investigators deemed to be “career limiting”.

“With [Pillay’s] suspension and other resignations, who will touch the case now? Anyway, that case is being dealt with at the senior level and we don’t know what will happen to it,” said one senior official.

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