Huang empire gets Zuma’s backing

2015-02-19 00:00

A BUSINESSMAN who allegedly owes the Receiver at least R1,8 billion may yet get off without paying a cent after President Jacob Zuma ­personally stepped in.

Jen Chih “Robert” Huang and his wife Shou Fang and four companies in which the couple are directors or connected with, owe the South African Revenue Service (SARS) an ­initial estimate of R540 million, according to court papers in a legal battle between SARS and the Huangs.

SARS audited the couple’s ­income between 2008 and 2013.

One of their companies is Mpisi Trading 74, a clearing agent that was involved in importing and donating 181 300 T-shirts to the ANC before the national elections. Many of the T-shirts featured Zuma’s face and ANC slogans.

The T-shirts were seized by SARS, and when Mpisi said they were a donation to the ANC, the acting deputy commissioner Ivan Pillay insisted the company pay customs tax. He has since been out in the cold.

SARS auditors also discovered four companies — dubbed the Razi entities — which together owe the Receiver a further R541 million, said SARS senior manager Pieter Engelbrecht in a statement that has been submitted to the Pretoria high court.

The probe forms part of a giant tax audit on the Huang couple, which may yet dwarf even the Dave King audit. King eventually paid R700 million to SARS.

A source said Huang has also made a string of confessions that will increase his taxable income markedly.

There are now however fears that the Haung audit will be shelved after Zuma allegedly intervened ­personally to ask the new tax ­commissioner for a “settlement ­outside the tax audit”.

Although the presidency has ­acknowledged questions on this ­allegation, it has not responded to Beeld after two working days.

SARS did not want to comment on “taxpayer matters”.

On December 5, the head of tax and customs investigations, Gene Ravele, reportedly missed a compulsory high-level meeting and was ­summoned by a messenger.

The source said “Ravele sent back a message he was busy sorting out the Mpisi case as was urgently requested by the president”.

Ravele was then excused from the meeting.

Huang and Zuma’s family have long maintained close business ­relations. Zuma’s nephew Khulubuse Zuma is a former chairperson of ­Mpisi and Huang has brokered ­several deals ­between Khulubuse and ­Chinese companies, the Mail & Guardian ­reported.

SARS had been working on the Haung audit for years and Engelbrecht said in his statement to the court the couple had set up eight companies with a multitude of bank accounts to evade tax and ­launder money to send “very large amounts” out of the country.

An analysis of the Huang empire found that just Mpisi had over 26 bank accounts at several financial institutions, SARS manager Loraine van Esch said in a second statement.

The court papers only mentioned the four Razi entities — which were used for extensive money laundering according to SARS. Van Esch said the revenue service had identified many more entities of this type in the Haugn empire.

SARS’s court documents form part of an impugned ex parte application in which SARS successfully ­applied for a search and seizure warrant without the Huangs’ knowledge.

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