Mpisane accused of delaying tactics

2012-06-13 00:00

THE fraud trial of a Durban socialite limped through a second day without starting, prompting an attack on the defence team by prosecutors.

Lawyers representing Shauwn Mpisane, a millionaire housing contractor, were accused yesterday of intentionally stalling the matter with an application seeking further particulars in relation to a revised charge sheet that lists 119 counts, all but one of them fraud.

On Monday, defence advocate Wim Trengove SC objected to the charge sheet in the Durban Regional Court and said Mpisane was entitled to “clarity” on the charges.

He argued that the new charges were vague and left the defence needing to know “where, when and to whom” the alleged misrepresentations by Mpisane were made.

Mpisane is accused of submitting false financial statements to score tax breaks.

Yesterday prosecutor Meera Naidu said in response to the defence objection that it was inconceivable for her to put before court her entire case before it had even proceeded.

“The state respectfully submits that this objection by the accused must have some ulterior motive, possibly the accused wants to delay the criminal trial; alternatively, they are embarking on a fishing expedition to which they are not entitled.”

Trengove said the suggestion of an ulterior motive was “unfounded”.

Missing from the public benches yesterday was sacked police chief Bheki Cele, who was a surprise face in the gallery on the first day. Cele is good friends with Mpisane and her husband, Sbu, a former Metro traffic cop. The official announcement that Cele was sacked was made by President Jacob Zuma yesterday.

This is the second time Mpisane is facing fraud allegations in court. She was convicted on similar charges in 2005 and given a three-year sentence, suspended for five years.

The state alleges this time round that Mpisane falsified her company’s 2008 income tax returns and annual financial statements in a deliberate bid to defraud the SA Revenue Service (SARS).

The charge sheet also reveals how tax investigators first began probing Mpisane’s husband in April that year.

Auditors expanded their scope to include Mpisane herself, as well as her close corporation, Zikhulise Cleaning, Maintenance and Transport, of which she is the sole member.

Mpisane handed over a draft set of financial statements indicating an operating profit before tax that year of R73 758 752 and a dividend declaration for herself of R47 038 356.

By law, she was liable to pay a 10% secondary tax on the dividend, amounting to R4 703 836.

When SARS began pressing Mpisane for the money, she objected to the tax assessment and submitted revised financial statements showing a reduced operating profit by virtue of increased cash purchases and wages.

This would have the effect of nullifying her dividend tax.

When pushed for documentary evidence to support the change in financial statements, Mpisane is alleged to have ordered her bookkeeper, Kishal Reddy, to forge invoices. Reddy pleaded guilty last year to forgery and was given a R30 000 fine.

SARS also scrutinised Zikhulise’s VAT returns from March 2009 to February 2010 and allegedly discovered an under-declared amount of R4 759 382 owing to the taxman.

The matter was adjourned before lunch.

Magistrate Blessing Msani will give his ruling on the application today.

• brett.horner@witness.co.za

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