Mpisane takes stand, insists she asked for audit

2012-11-09 00:00

WEALTHY Durban housing boss Shauwn Mpisane took the stand for the first time in her tax fraud trial yesterday and insisted she was the one who had asked the taxman to audit her company.

She told the Durban Regional Court that she made the request in 2008 to the South African Revenue Service (SARS), which was probing her husband Sbu’s financial affairs at the time.

What’s more, she said, she had even asked SARS to recommend a reputable accounting firm and received three names. She susbesquently engaged the services of one.

Her testimony was part of a trial within a trial that is testing the admissibility of documented evidence being used by prosecutors.

She has pleaded not guilty to 119 charges, all but one of the counts for tax fraud.

Mpisane’s legal team argued that the evidence on which prosecutors have based their case is legally protected in terms of confidentiality provisions in the country’s tax legislation.

In that evidence are invoices that were supplied to SARS by Mpisane during alternative dispute resolution, a process that encourages disclosure by taxpayers in exchange for immunity from “any subsequent proceedings”.

It also emerged that Mpisane had made an application to the voluntary disclosure programme (VDP) a month after she was charged in June last year.

Her application, which dealt with certain VAT payments, was rejected in February. The process is similarly designed to settle disputes by negotiation and disclosures remain strictly confidential.

Mpisane testified that her disclosures to SARS were, in her mind and at all times, confidential, after a previous conviction for VAT fraud in 2005 was obtained on the basis of what she said was protected information. “My attitude was that information [in the current case] could not be used to prosecute me.”

Earlier, the head of the VDP unit, Johan Simmington, said all information given to his team was “ringfenced” and tightly guarded from other divisions in order to honour their “secrecy of oath”.

The case continues today.

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