How the Mpisanes dodged tax
Rowan Sewchurran, The Witness
Durban - A bookkeeper has testified how he defrauded the SA Revenue Service (Sars) of almost R1m in one year on behalf of Zikhulise Cleaning, Maintenance and Transport company under the instruction of owners Shawn and her husband Sbu Mpisane.
"She told me that my job was to save her money, not give it away to Sars,” was the confession of the Mpisanes’ bookkeeper Kishal Reddy at the Durban Magistrate’s Court on Friday.
Magistrate A van Vuuren cited Reddy’s “personal circumstances and the fact the he assisted police investigations against Shawn Mpisane” in imposing a lenient fine of R30 000 or six months’ imprisonment.
Reddy in his statement admitted to knowingly and willingly forging income statements and not disclosing funds to Sars.
“After serving my articles with SAB and T incorporated, Shawn offered me a job.
'In too deep'
“I was earning R6 000 at SAB and T when my wife was diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension. Doctors gave her a year to live.
“Shawn asked me what my desired salary was and I requested R40 000 a month, which would have assisted immensely with my wife’s medical bills, but I settled for R30 000,” said Reddy.
He said that after a month or so his role became clear and although he didn’t benefit financially from the fraud, he was already “in too deep”.
“A friend of mine, Preshan Ramdutt, was able to print the fake income statements since he was involved in graphics and design and his dad owned Art Printers in Nandi Drive.
“Preshan needed some convincing and eventually agreed to print the statement at R165 a copy. Shawn made an initial payment of R10 000 to Preshan and so the relationship grew,” he disclosed.
Reddy agreed to testify against the Mpisanes and assist Sars and Hawks with the ongoing investigation.
Earlier this week, over 500 supporters, apparently employees at Zikhulise Cleaning, Maintenance and Transport, toyi-toyied outside the court before proceedings started, in support of their employer, who they say is innocent.
The hearing was interrupted regularly by Mpisane’s supporters entering the room while the case was in progress.
Mpisane is out on bail of R50 000 after she handed herself over to the police when Sars and the Hawks raided her upmarket Durban home.
According to the charge sheet, Mpisane is accused of unlawfully and falsely misrepresenting submissions on her VAT 201 returns with intent to defraud.
The amount involved is around R2.5m, the court heard.
The court was told that she has a previous tax-related conviction.
The couple are known for their fleet of expensive cars - including a Rolls Royce Phantom and Lamborghinis - and the lavish parties that celebrities and politicians flocked to.
In March last year, Sars seized three vehicles worth nearly R17m belonging to the couple to cover unpaid taxes.
The couple voluntarily handed over some of their moveable assets last year as surety and pledged to pay Sars over a few months.
In 2009 it was reported that the couple had received R219m from the eThekwini Municipality to build low-income houses on 4?500 sites in Umlazi.
The National Home Builders’ Registration Council found defects in more than 1 000 of the 3 000 houses built by Zikhulise Cleaning, Maintenance and Transport.
Of the defects, 30% were serious and would require major renovations.
Last week charges of intimidation were dropped against Sbu Mpisane and he apologised to Mercury news editor Philani Makhanya for threatening him during a heated conversation.