Mpisane defence attempts to discredit SARS state witness

2013-06-26 00:00

THE legal counsel representing controversial Durban businesswoman Shauwn Mpisane in a

multi-million rand fraud and corruption case made every attempt to discredit a key state witness.

Heard in the Durban Regional Court yesterday, Rafik Bhana SC for Mpisane, repeatedly called into question the reliability of SA Revenue Services (SARS) senior auditor Waheeda Osman.

Key to his questioning was whether Osman had acted irregularly in auditing Mpisane’s company Zik­hulise Cleaning, Maintenance, and Transport CC.

During Mpisane’s last appearance in May, the court queried her invoices on evidence given by Osman.

It was found that the amounts on allegedly fake invoices she submitted were lower than on the genuine invoices issued by suppliers.

Osman said during May’s proceedings the genuine invoices, for R6,5 million, had exceeded the value of the fictitious invoices by R1,5 million.

Bhana’s line of questioning circled around internal e-mail correspondence by SARS officials in which Osman was a recipient.

Bhana’s strategy in discrediting Osman was made easier by the latter’s refusal to answer questions with either a yes or no. Instead, Osman wanted to show the court she was not instrumental to the investigation into Mpisane, but rather only “consulted” with by the investigation’s “primary caregivers” for administration purposes. Her answers were by her own admission “ramblings”. She also blamed her e-mail inbox for blocking key e-mails relating to the investigation.

“How you are answering is a sign of the dishonest way you are giving evidence,” said Bhana.

The Witness has learnt Osman had in the morning session made mention under examination by Bhana that she had been privy to transcripts of evidence given by another witness, SARS group executive Mashudu Johannes Makwakwa, prior to her giving her written affidavit. Makwakwa gave evidence in November 2012 on behalf of the state.

If Osman did have sight of Makwa­kwa’s evidence and it is further validated, it could seriously hurt the National Prosecuting Authority’s case and make certain aspects of the evidence inadmissible.

Bhana also accused the prosecution of suppressing evidence and omitting evidence that should have been entered into the court record.

Sitting in the accused box, Mpisane, in a colourful outfit with matching accessories and extravagantly braided hair, sat relaxed surrounded by files either making notes or listening.

Mpisane is accused of inflating invoices by more than R5 million in an attempt to cut her tax bill. She is also charged with violating the Close Corporations Act by remaining the sole member of Zikhulise Cleaning, Maintenance, and Transport CC when she had a previous fraud conviction. She has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

According to the state, Zikhulise CC’s bookkeeper Kishal Reddy forged four invoices to the amount of R5 053 035. This was allegedly done on Mpisane’s instructions.

Reddy has pleaded guilty to fraud and forgery, and to contravening the VAT Act. The trial continues today.

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