SARS taken for a ride

2015-01-27 00:00

A TOP spy and former business partner of one of the president’s wives is being accused of cheating SARS out of R11 million.

Mandisa Mokwena (48), a former senior official of the South African Revenue Service (SARS), was allegedly moved to a top post in the State Secutiy Agency (SSA) after she was arrested and charged with fraud. Mokwena is a former business partner of President Jacob Zuma’s wife Tobeka Madiba-Zuma. She and Madiba-Zuma had interests in three companies, from which Mokwena has since resigned.

In exchange for help with her doctorate at the University of Venda and almost R1 million in cash, Mokwena had allegedly ensured “in an illegal and corrupt” manner that tenders were given to — amongst others — her supervisor at Unisa, his wife and their companies.

These allegations were made in a lengthy charge sheet by advocate Hein van der Merwe, deputy director of Public Prosecutions in Pretoria yesterday.

Mokwena, who gives her title as doctor in official documents, yesterday appeared briefly with eight co-accused in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria.

Van der Merwe said an investigation of her activities had exposed a “pattern of racketeering”, which led to the arrest of 11 people and SARS scrutinising the activities of 10 businesses since 2010.

Charges against two of the companies had since been withdrawn.

The accused jointly face 57 charges in terms of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act (Poca) for crimes allegedly committed between September 2007 and July 2009, when an internal SARS probe brought these activities to light.

Spokesperson for the State Security Agency, Brian Dube, said it seems the agency — which works with highly sensitive information — does not have on record how Mokwena was actually appointed by the agency.

He said the minister of State Security last year asked the Inspector-General of Intelligence to investigate media reports about Mokwena.

“Her relationship with us is part of this investigation,” Dube said.

City Press revealed in August that year that Mokwena was appointed as head of economic intelligence in the agency.

She reportedly forms part of a “special investigating unit” in the agency, which was allegedly meant to destablise the SARS and the Hawks.

Mokwena resigned from SARS in December 2009 after disciplinary procedures were started against her. She was arrested a few days later.

Clifford Collings, who led the investigation of Mokwena, was recently suspended by new SARS commissioner Tom Moyane, allegedly because of the late delivery of Moyane’s new Audi Q5.

Collings’s anti-corruption and safety unit (Acas) was also disbanded.

The charge sheet that was yesterday tabled by Van Der Merwe also accuses Mokwena of:

• Acting illegally and corruptly with her co-accused to enrich the members of the criminal venture;

• Manipulating SARS tender procuderes with the help of a colleague to award SARS training and research contracts in a corrupt and fraudulent manner to — amongst others — her supervisor at Unisa and his wife, a former dean of the school of Management Sciences at the University of Venda, and a professor at Unisa;

• Getting SARS to overpay on tenders; and

• Allegedly getting her supervisor and former director of economic sciences at Unisa, Oludele Akinboade, to deposit in total about R660 000 into the Absa account of her husband, Barnard. The purpose of the deposits was allegedly to hide the reltionship between Mokwena and Akinboade. A charge against Barnard was withdrawn in 2012.

Madiba-Zuma is not implicated in any of the offences and denied knowing about the charges against Mokwena.

The case was yesterday postponed to next month because advocate Johan Schaefer, for Mokwena, requested documents and witnesses from SARS in order to defend his client; and because six of the accused applied for the case against them to be reconsidered.

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