SARS loses first round against Porritt

2013-08-03 00:00

A LEGAL battle between the SA Revenue Service (SARS) and KZN businessman and farmer Gary Porritt involving R12 million was thrown out of court yesterday.

Judge Themba Sishi ruled that the case — in which SARS sought to prevent the liquidators of Lamax (Pty) Ltd from paying over R12 million to Porritt’s Surrey Development Trust — ought not to have been brought on an urgent basis.

He struck the matter off the roll and ordered SARS to pay the costs of the application.

Porritt and his business partner Sue Bennett are trustees of the Surrey Development Trust.

SARS alleged in court papers that the claim by Surrey for payment of R12 075 154,08 — by way of a 2003 cession of debt by another Porritt company, Synergy Management (Pty) Ltd — was “fraudulently created” allegedly in order to frustrate the payment of a debt totalling R243 913 064 by Synergy to SARS.

This allegation was, however, strongly denied by Bennett in a lengthy affidavit in which she struck back on behalf of the Trust and Porritt.

In her affidavit, Bennett accused SARS of acting maliciously and further denied that Synergy owes SARS tax debt.

“SARS has demonstrated a pattern of conduct towards any entity which it perceives to be connected to Porritt and I, whereby SARS has systematically attempted to separate Porritt and me from any possible access to funds in such entities by creating revised assessments which reflect vast sums of money as allegedly being due by the taxpayer to SARS. Such revised assessments are nothing but works of fiction which have no basis in law,” she stated.

According to the court papers, Synergy lodged a claim against Lamax which was accepted by the liquidators. It is now alleged by Surrey that it is a cessionary of the claim.

Both Lamax and Synergy were described by SARS in the papers as being part of the Tigon Group of companies of which Porritt was the “directing and controlling mind”, and in relation to which he and Bennett are currently still facing numerous criminal charges in Gauteng.

According to an affidavit by SARS official Deon Boshoff, the affairs of Lamax — which was voluntarily liquidated in 1997 — are in the process of being wound up. This follows protracted litigation in respect of a customs claim lodged by SARS, which had delayed the process until August last year.

SARS claimed it had no option but to lodge an urgent application to stop the liquidators from paying the disputed sum to the Surrey Development Trust.

In the wake of yesterday’s decision by the judge to strike the case from the roll, lawyers were uncertain what the next step will be.

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