Hawks still probing Makwakwa for corruption, money laundering

Cape Town - SA’s priority crime investigative unit the Hawks will continue to probe former SARS official Jonas Makwakwa despite his abrupt resignation, the revenue service’s head Tom Moyane said on Wednesday. 

Moyane announced at a media briefing that Makwakwa, the revenue service’s controversial chief officer for business and individual taxes, had resigned from his position on Wednesday morning. 

His resignation became effective “immediately as of 14 March 2018 at 11:00”.

“Makwakwa has indicated that he is resigning for personal reasons,” said Moyane. 

But the former top SARS executive is still facing a criminal probe by the Hawks related to allegations of corruption, money laundering and racketeering that date from 2016.

'I was set to suspend him' 

Moyane told a hastily-arranged media briefing that he had intended suspending Makwakwa based on new media reports of his alleged involvement in awarding a tender to debt collection agency National Integrated Credit Solutions (NICS) to help SARS recover debts.

According to TimesLive and the Daily Maverick, Makwakwa may in the past have received payments from NICS, although the debt collection agency denied any impropriety. 

“I have formally put this matter before Mr Makwakwa with the intention to suspend him in respect of the said allegations pending an investigation,” said Moyane. 

“At this point, he denied the allegations and indicated to me that he had already decided to resign. Due to the resignation being effective immediately, it serves no purpose to proceed with this matter from an employment relations perspective.”

Hawks investigation 

Moyane said the Hawks investigation into Makwakwa was on-going, and would include the latest allegations related to NCIS. 

The criminal probe came about after the Financial Intelligence Centre in 2016 flagged suspicious transactions into Makwakwa's bank account, and that of his partner, Kelly-Ann Elskie, which allegedly amounted to R1.7m over six years. 

Makwakwa has denied he did anything wrong.

The FIC drew up a report and submitted it to both the Hawks and SARS. This resulted in two investigations of Makwakwa, one by the Hawks and an internal investigation by SARS. 

For the internal SARS probe, Moyane appointed law firm Hogan Lovells to “conduct an investigation into allegations of impropriety against Mr Makwakwa”.

After the law firm submitted its report in June 2017, SARS held an internal disciplinary hearing – based in part on the report - that concluded Makwakwa was not guilty. 

He then returned to SARS in early November, after having been suspended with full pay for about a year.

Hogan Lovells, meanwhile, has denied that it was ever asked to investigate the suspicious payments allegedly made into Makwaka’s accounts, saying it was only asked to identify whether any misconduct had been committed by Makwakwa and Elskie “as employees of SARS”.

“We have never advised and have not been asked to advise on whether Jonas Makwakwa is guilty of any criminal/tax offences and have not exonerated him of any,” its South Africa chair, Lavery Modise, previously told Fin24 in a statement. 

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