Mpisane’s defence attorney roasts tax auditor for ‘unacceptable, incompetent approach’

2013-05-21 00:00

HEATED exchanges dominated again on a day of technical evidence in the fraud trial of Durban businesswoman Shauwn Mpisane.

Prosecution witness Waheeda Osman, a senior auditor with the South African Revenue Service (SARS), was accused by Mpisane’s legal team of lying and twisting her evidence.

Advocate Rafik Bhana SC, for Mpisane, insisted his client was the victim of a witch-hunt.

Osman, reluctant to concede any ground with simple “yes” or “no” answers, incurred the ire of magistrate Blessing Msani, who urged her to keep her responses pertinent.

Evidence laboured over invoices and dates relating to tax assessments for Mpisane’s company Zikhulise Cleaning, Maintenance and Transport, which, along with Mpisane, is accused of 119 counts of tax fraud. All but one are for fraud. Mpisane has pleaded not guilty and is out on R50 000 bail.

Mpisane already has one tax fraud conviction from 2005 and is accused in this case of manipulating invoices and financial statements to reduce her tax liability.

Two other matters against Mpisane are running parallel in the Durban Commercial Crimes Court and the Pinetown Regional Court.

Yesterday, Osman was subjected to a barrage under cross-examination, denying Bhana’s barbs that her work was sub-standard and biased against Mpisane. “That’s your opinion,” she responded time and again.

Bhana said an audit by Osman’s colleague, Sumantha Ramharak, which reduced Mpisane’s tax for 2008, was an example of how the matter should have been dealt with.

Going through the document, he set out to show that Osman, by comparison, had failed to implement a number of “cross-checks” — that Ramharak had followed — in her own audit of Mpisane’s affairs.

“Yours was an unacceptable, incompetent approach. Hers was acceptable,” argued Bhana. Osman defended her work.

At one point during evidence Bhana demanded to know from Osman who was “driving” the case against Mpisane, saying it was a vendetta. Osman denied there was an agenda.

It did emerge that Mpisane, unhappy with Osman’s auditing, approached senior SARS officials to have her removed from doing her tax affairs. The case continues in Durban Regional Court today.

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