Gordhan answers Hawks over Sars 'rogue' unit

Cape Town – Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan has answered the Hawks questions regarding the alleged SA Revenue Services (Sars) “rogue” unit on Wednesday, stating that the unit acted lawfully as far as he is aware.

FULL STATEMENT: Gordhan responds to Hawks

“I am advised that the Sikhakhane Panel finding that the establishment of the Unit contravened the National Strategic Intelligence Act was wrong and based on a superficial and clearly mistaken reading of the aforementioned Act,” he said in a statement on Wednesday.

READ: The 27 questions the Hawks sent to Gordhan

“The unit was an essential part of Sars’ enforcement strategy as it is with most tax and customs administrations globally.

“As far as I was aware, the unit lawfully performed its functions.

“As far as I was aware, the funding of the unit was done through normal budgetary processes applicable to Sars."

"In respect of the legality of the investigation unit established during my time as commissioner of the South African Revenue Service, I believed that the unit was lawfully established to perform very important functions for and on behalf of Sars.

“The unit did not initially have a name but was later successively known as the Special Projects Unit, the National Research Group and the High-Risk Investigations Unit.

“I participated in the decision to establish the Unit in February 2007.”

Gordhan said he was not personally involved in the recruitment of its members. "I am told that the process was in accordance with Sars policy," he said. "If it or any of its members engaged in unlawful activities then they did so without my knowledge or consent.

"I have no knowledge of the operation code-named 'Sunday Evenings'," he said. This refers to an alleged operation in which certain Sars members "spied" on the NPA about eight years ago. The Hawks had asked Gordhan whether he was aware of the existence of Project Sunday Evenings and the rogue unit.

Gordhan said his legal advice was that he was not obliged, under any law, to answer the questions sent to him by the Hawks.

"I believe it is in the public interest that I provide them with information I have at hand," he said. "Be that as it may, as a law abiding citizen I have decided to co-operate fully."

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