Taxman slaps Bosasa with R849m tax bill, opposes business rescue bid by Watsons

2020-03-11 13:52

The South African Revenue Service (SARS) has brought an application to intervene and oppose a court bid by Jared Watson, nephew of late Bosasa CEO Gavin Watson, to have some of the Bosasa companies placed under business rescue.

The companies have been under voluntary liquidation since February 2019.

In papers filed by SARS, the tax service revealed that following investigations into the tax affairs of the Bosasa group, it had raised assessments totalling R849 million.

Further assessments were in the process of being raised, SARS said.

Watson has asked the Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg for an order granting an interdict of an auction of Bosasa's assets that took place in December 2019, as well as an order placing six Bosasa companies under business rescue, instead of liquidation.

He contends that the companies are capable of being resuscitated.

The court application, scheduled to be heard on Wednesday and Thursday, was opposed by the liquidators, led by Cloete Murray and now SARS.

READ: Watson family head back to court to keep beleaguered Bosasa alive

Veteran investigator Pieter Engelbrecht, the acting head of the Illicit Economy Unit, deposed to SARS' affidavit. Engelbrecht stated that SARS is the major third-party creditor of the companies. He argued that if the court granted Watson's application, it would be detrimental to the tax service's ability to collect taxes due.

"SARS has been investigating the tax affairs of the Bosasa group of companies, including the six business rescue companies, particularly since the testimony before [the Zondo commission] revealed a large-scale scheme of fraud, money laundering, racketeering and tax evasion perpetrated by the Bosasa entities and related individuals," Engelbrecht's affidavit read.

He explained that this led directly to the establishment of a tax inquiry headed by advocate Piet Marais. The first session of the inquiry took place from 3 to 14 June 2019.

"During the tax inquiry, SARS' reasonable belief that the companies within the Bosasa group, including the six business rescue companies, failed to comply with their obligations in terms of the tax acts, committed offences as envisaged in terms of the tax acts, or dispersed of, removed or concealed assets which may fully or partly satisfy an outstanding tax debt, was confirmed in all material aspects."

Engelbrecht said SARS was busy analysing the testimony of witnesses who appeared before the inquiry, and the documents they submitted.

He added SARS was opposing Watson's application because he simply ignored SARS as the single largest creditor of the Bosasa group of companies, and because his application was "completely silent" on the companies' ability to pay their tax debts.

"No plan with a prospect of success is detailed in the application, namely a plan which would steer the group of companies out of the situation they find themselves in," Engelbrecht said.

He said the companies had suffered severe reputational damage, the closure of their bank accounts as a result and a loss of all government contracts.

At the time Bosasa was placed under liquidation in February 2019, Murray revealed in a previous affidavit that 93% of the Bosasa group's business was state contracts. These have since all been terminated.

"Regard must also be given to the fact that the companies were implicated in fraudulent activities, were the recipients of ill-gotten gains and perpetrated a system of tax evasion to the detriment of SARS and the fiscus, running into many millions of rands. It will therefore in any event be just and equitable for the companies to be finally wound up," Engelbrecht said.

READ | Taxman opposes urgent court bid to halt Bosasa liquidation and auction, says company owes more than R500m in taxes

"SARS has finalised a number of its investigations into the Bosasa group of companies, raised further assessments and is in the process of raising further assessments. SARS is therefore currently a creditor of the companies in the Bosasa group… in the amount of R849 445 708.35."

In court papers, Watson attempted to sidestep a previous assessment by SARS for just over R500 million raised against one Bosasa company, Bosasa Supply Chain Management, by pointing out that he did not ask the court to place this particular company under business rescue because of this.

Engelbrecht's affidavit made it clear that every single Bosasa company was liable for a portion of the R849 million assessment now raised.

"Ultimately this application is persisted with the clear ulterior motive to neutralise the appointment of truly independent liquidators to the subject companies under circumstances where the Bosasa protagonists had a clearly intended plan in mind when they placed the said companies in liquidation on day one," Murray previously said in court papers.

Murray and the other liquidators are also busy with an insolvency inquiry, a confidential process during which individuals can be subpoenaed to appear and answer questions over the financial affairs of a company.

News24 previously reported that Jared, Roth and Lindsay Watson were subpoenaed to appear before the inquiry to answer questions over the financial affairs of the Bosasa group.

Arguments in the business rescue application are set to continue in court on Wednesday and Thursday, with the court asked to first allow SARS' application to intervene before ruling on the urgent interdict application and then moving on to the full application for business rescue.


Read more on:    bosasa  |  sars  |  jared watson  |  johannesburg  |  fraud  |  corruption  |  courts
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