Spy unit: top SARS men suspended

2014-12-06 00:00

TWO of SA Revenue Service’s most senior ­managers, including the organisation’s deputy commissioner who until recently served as its ­acting head, are the latest victims of rumours of spying and intrigue in the service.

Deputy commissioner Ivan Pillay was ­suspended yesterday by commissioner Tom Moyane, in connection with the investigation of a covert spy operation within SARS.

Moyane confirmed the existence of such a unit in his media statement yesterday.

Peter Richer, the group head of strategic planning and risk, was also suspended.

Moyane, who was appointed commissioner in September, partially revealed the findings of a panel appointed to probe the existence of the ­secret unit.

According to his statement, the panel ­confirmed that such a unit exists, and also that there is prima facie evidence that it had carried out illegal surveillance.

Moyane promised to shut down the unit.

“While SARS remains an efficient and effective organisation, the unlawful establishment of a unit that operated ostensibly in a covert manner, has created a climate of intrigue, fear and subterfuge within the organisation,” Moyane said.

The statement said the panel was initially set up by Pillay to probe allegations against Johan van Loggenberg, the suspended investigations CEO.

However, Moyane’s statement implies that ­Pillay did not reveal the existence of the covert unit to the panel.

The panel expressed its “disappointment” that the existence of the covert unit was not revealed to it, and that after its existence was confirmed by other sources, some SARS witnesses gave what sounded like “rehearsed” stories.

It said the intention could have been to mislead the panel, and put the existence of the unit in a positive light.

Previously, the Sunday Times reported ­allegations that the unit had been involved in ­setting up a brothel in Durban as a cover for ­officials working from home; had spied on a wide range of people, including taxi hitmen, druglords, cigarette and abalone smugglers, SARS officials and politicians; and that some SARS officials were infiltrated into the ANC as bodyguards.

IVAN Pillay said the panel was mistaken.

“I note in the statement the commissioner released to the media, he refers to unlawful conduct that was found by the Sikhakhane panel,” Pillay said in a statement. “I respectfully consider the panel to have erred in matters of law and fact and indeed I have indicated as much to the commissioner.”

Pillay said he served “with the pursuit of our democratic ideals”, during his time at SARS.

“I look forward to the opportunity to challenge any allegation against me of unlawful conduct, misconduct and impropriety based on SARS policies.”

Pillay said he would respond to the allegations against him at any formal forum chosen by Moyane. — WR.

THE SA institute of Tax Professionals (SAIT) yesterday welcomed the suspensions.

“SAIT supports commissioner Tom Moyane’s no-nonsense leadership,” chief executive Stiaan Klue said in a statement.

Klue said SARS could not expect people to abide by the tax laws if they “appeared not to be playing according to the rules”.

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