SARS Inquiry: Nugent warns Makwakwa to 'desist from threatening action' against witnesses

Retired Judge Robert Nugent has warned the former chief of business and individual taxes of SARS, Jonas Makwakwa, to "desist from threatening action" against witnesses who have testified in the commission of inquiry into the tax authority.

This comes after Makwakwa's lawyer Liezel David wrote to Nugent on July 16, requesting him to confirm if witnesses who had already testified before the commission would be recalled and cross-examined.

"We have studied the transcripts of the hearings for day 1 ,2 and 3 and believe that some testimony presented is factually incorrect, untruthful, based on evidence that does not exist and/or based on hearsay evidence," David's letter to Judge Nugent reads.

She said Makwakwa wanted to make a submission to the inquiry in order to "correct a number of inaccuracies that have been put forward by the witnesses called to date as well as to shed light on what has been at play at SARS".

David also requested that the witnesses produce evidence on "baseless allegations" made at the inquiry.

She also added that she received instructions from Makwakwa to open perjury cases and defamation claims against the witnesses if they did not provide evidence to support their allegations.

Requests for information

In June, the SARS inquiry heard that Makwakwa actively tried to interfere with the tax matters of high-profile or VIP taxpayers to the indignation of other tax officials, who claimed he had "no business" instructing individuals how to deal with these matters.

Fin24 reported at the time that Makwakwa allegedly contacted then acting chief officer for strategy, enabling and communications Makungu Mthebule on a number of occasions to instruct her to deal with high-profile individuals' tax matters in a certain way. The report also said he made numerous requests to staff in the VIP tax unit for information relating to certain taxpayers.

Mthebule refused and also instructed her staff to refuse to comply with Makwakwa's "instructions". 

However, in a letter addressed to Makwakwa's lawyer, dated July 17, Judge Nugent said it was "not clear why you should direct your threats against witnesses to me".

Nugent said witnesses would be recalled if there was a proper basis for doing so.

"I am sure you appreciate that whether a witness has perjured himself or herself is not capable of being determined until all the relevant evidence has been heard.

Makwakwa to testify

"I would thus be obliged if you would desist from threatening action against witnesses in the course of the inquiry, thereby hindering the work of the commission, which constitutes an offence.

"Any attempt to do so will be referred immediately to the director of public prosecutions."

Makwakwa is expected to testify in the next public hearings in August.

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