State illegally spied on me, suspects 'underworld' figure Lifman

2016-11-25 21:51
Mark Lifman (File)

Mark Lifman (File)

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Cape Town - Controversial businessman Mark Lifman, whose R400m tax woes have revealed fractures within Sars, suspects government agents illegally spied on him.

This emerged in documents filed in the Western Cape High Court this week.

Lifman is trying to place one of his entities, Seasons Find 764, under business rescue - a move an initial team set up to probe his tax records is trying to block.

On Wednesday News24 revealed that Sars officials are at war over an alleged "review" of Lifman's tax bill, as part of tax boss Tom Moyane's new "rogue unit" that is supposedly investigating the involvement of Sars employees in criminal activities.

This matter is expected to proceed in the Western Cape High Court this coming Monday when Lifman will push for all action by Sars to halt pending the controversial new review.

Official request for information from SARS

Lifman's tax troubles with Sars started in May 2014 when an inquiry into his affairs was launched.

In an affidavit, dated November 23 this year, Lifman said he was trying to understand the reasons behind the inquiry.

"I do not know what allegations the decision to launch the tax inquiry was based on, however information has come to light that it may be based on untested covert intelligence procured by, what is now known as, the 'Sars rogue unit'."

His legal representative had made an official request to Sars for information relating to it.
Lifman, in his affidavit, explained that he believed there was something untoward about the Sars probe into his affairs.

"I have formed the apprehension that I was perhaps the target of illegal spying by government functionaries, especially after realising that a known spy had arranged to meet with me in November 2013," he said.

Figures 'unrealistic, unfair'

In an annexure to a Promotion of Access to Information Act (Paia) request to Sars for information about the reasons for the inquiry into his tax affairs, Lifman's legal team says he was introduced to a lawyer whose name previously cropped up in the broader Sars saga, in November 13 at the Mount Nelson Hotel "under very suspicious circumstances".

"Our client, Mr Lifman, now also has reason to believe that literally a month later, in early November 2013, [the lawyer] was acting on instruction or guidance of her handlers and did so with ulterior motives, may have also recorded the meeting surreptitiously, and did not have the legal authority to infiltrate our client," the annexure says.

Lifman wanted, among other things from Sars, various records of meetings and recordings, including data from the lawyer's phones.

In his affidavit, he said that between February and March 2015, Sars issued letters of findings about the amount of his entities' taxable income.

"The total amount of tax estimated to be claimed by Sars, cumulatively, exceeded R388m, which is in my estimation at least six times the value of the net worth of all the assets of the affected entities and my personal assets together," Lifman said.

"The figures were unrealistic and grossly unfair."

In his affidavit he said information had surfaced hinting that the inquiry into his tax affairs was not above board.

"Since the start of the inquiry, I got the feeling that the Sars team prosecuting the inquiry had an ulterior motive over and above simply prosecuting an inquiry into my tax affairs, but that their intention was to ruin myself and the affected entities that belong to me," Lifman said.

He claimed, in his affidavit, that the power of attorney granted to Sars legal representatives, was in fact granted by a Sars official who had "long since" left the revenue service.

Lifman said in April 2014 Ivan Pillay, who at that stage was Sars acting commissioner, had authorised a Sars senior manager to look into his affairs.

But Lifman said that Pillay's authority to do so had lapsed in October 2013.

Read more on:    sars  |  mark lifman  |  cape town

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