Respite for Shauwn

2012-11-10 00:00

HOUSING contractor Shauwn Mpisane will have a two-week respite from the hard wooden benches of the dock after her tax fraud trial was adjourned to November 23.

It was her testimony yesterday that wrapped up the trial within a trial and brought to a close a three-week sitting in the Durban Regional Court.

There were times when Mpisane showed her irritation with prosecutor Meera Naidu’s questioning.

At one point she even took on the role of inquisitor, throwing questions at Naidu, who graciously answered with a smile.

Naidu was unable to resist a jibe and remarked to magistrate Blessing Msani: “Your Worship, it looks like I am being led [in evidence].”

The two had parried over seven counts of VAT fraud relating to the 2010 financial year, which appear among the 119 counts against Mpisane.

For her part, Mpisane said there was never any indication that these seven charges related to 2010.

The fiscal period is important because a month after she was arrested and provisionally charged last June, Mpisane applied to the Voluntary Disclosure Programme (VDP), which lets taxpayers divulge information to the South African Revenue Services on condition it remains confidential.

By doing this, Mpisane would have ensured any evidence disclosed by her was “ringfenced” from prosecutors and unable to be used by law.

Naidu’s line of questioning made it clear the state believes Mpisane used the programme to her benefit, knowing beforehand she was under investigation for alleged VAT infractions in 2010.

But Mpisane was steadfast and said she was under the impression investigators were confining themselves to 2008 because that was the year they kept referring to at the time of her arrest.

“You assumed it was for the 2008 tax year,” Naidu countered.

Mpisane agreed, explaining that invoices seized by investigators were all from that year, leading to her assumption.

Her testimony formed part of the trial within a trial, which began this week, to test the admissibility of evidence.

Defence advocate Jimmy Howse earlier said Naidu’s reliance on documents used in confidential tax forums was flawed and therefore inadmissible.

Four weeks of trial time have lapsed without any significant movement in the trial itself, which has had only one witness.

Both sides will present their final arguments on November 23 and Msani will make his ruling on December 3.

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