Sars ‘hostage drama’: Leading Gordhan investigator being probed

Johannesburg - The Hawks have confirmed that they are aware of an investigation into a group of officials from the law enforcement agency who have been implicated in the alleged kidnapping of an employee of the South African Revenue Service (Sars).

In dramatic video footage and sound clips that emerged on Thursday, officers from the Hawks can be seen and heard arguing with a Sars official from whom they were trying to confiscate sensitive documents related to Sars commissioner Tom Moyane's role in the fraud investigation into Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan.

Vlok Symington, deputy director of Sars's legal and policy division, has laid a complaint of kidnapping at the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) against the four Hawks officers after he was allegedly held against his will in a Sars boardroom in Pretoria earlier this month.

In one of the videos circulated on Thursday, Thabo Titi, a bodyguard of Moyane, can be seen barring Symington from leaving the boardroom.

Hawks ‘co-operating’

Ipid spokesperson Moses Dlamini has confirmed that four Hawks officers are being investigated over the alleged kidnapping. He confirmed that Brigadier Nyameka Xaba, the officer responsible for leading the investigation into Gordhan, is one of the four Hawks officers now being probed over the incident. Xaba was also present at the Sars offices while Symington was allegedly being held against his will, the videos show.

Responding to queries over whether the Hawks were aware of the investigation into four of their officers, spokesperson Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi said they were and that the Hawks were co-operating with the probe.

The document the Hawks and Moyane's bodyguard had allegedly confiscated from Symington included a string of emails between Moyane, his legal advisers, Xaba and officials from the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).

Ethical concerns

In one of the emails, Moyane is told by outside legal counsel for Sars that "on ethical reasons, I cannot be involved in this one". The emails were apparently accidentally given to Symington.

The response to Moyane came from David Makhapela of the law firm Mashiane, Moodley and Monama, who'd been acting for Sars throughout the "rogue unit" saga and the fraud case opened against Gordhan, former Sars deputy commissioner Ivan Pillay and Oupa Magashula, former Sars commissioner. The latter case, which will see Gordhan and his co-accused appear in court next week, hinges on Pillay's early retirement in 2010.

It was Symington who'd written a legal opinion in 2009 in which it was stipulated that Pillay's early retirement was nothing out of the ordinary and could therefore be approved.

The NPA, which had apparently failed to take this legal opinion into account, has nevertheless decided to charge Gordhan, Pillay and Magashule over Pillay's early retirement.

Xaba, as lead investigator in the case, had wanted Symington to answer questions from the Hawks in a written affidavit relating to the legal opinion he'd drafted about the early retirement. According to the emails, Xaba had written to Makhapela, in his capacity as Sars' lawyer, to get Symington to write the affidavit "as a matter of urgency".

It was at this point that Makhapela instead responded to Moyane to express his ethical concerns over the direction the Hawks' investigation had taken.

The email, in which Moyane is effectively reprimanded over his role in the Gordhan saga, accidentally ended up in Symington's hands along with the questions the Hawks wanted answered.

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