Gordhan: Fraud charges are without merit

Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan delivers his mini budget against the backdrop of a spate of wildcat strikes that rocked the SA economy  and downgrades by international ratings agencies, Moody's and Standard & Poor's. (AFP)
Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan delivers his mini budget against the backdrop of a spate of wildcat strikes that rocked the SA economy and downgrades by international ratings agencies, Moody's and Standard & Poor's. (AFP)

Cape Town -  The Treasury said on Tuesday the Hawks' move to summons Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan appears to maximise the damage inflicted on the economic well-being of South Africans.

Gordhan was formally summoned by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) for fraud, related to the early retirement of Ivan Pillay, the former deputy commissioner of the South African Revenue Service (Sars). Pillay and former Sars commissioner Oupa Magashula were also served with summonses.

The NPA’s announcement on Tuesday has rattled the rand, which sank over 4% to the US dollar. By 18:35 the unit was trading 4.21% weaker at R14.39/$ from its overnight close in New York of R13.80/$.

"It is most unfortunate that the Hawks have, once again, chosen to initiate legal proceedings at a moment that appears calculated to maximise the damage inflicted on the economic well- being of South Africans and essential processes of government."

Read: Gordhan's lawyers question Hawks, NPA motives

Gordhan has indicated that he will cooperate fully in the execution of all legal requirements that are placed upon him.

"To this end, the Minister’s legal team have had extensive interactions with the Hawks over the last six months, including providing for clear communication channels in the even that any further legal proceedings are initiated," Treasury said in a statement.

Despite this, Treasury said the Hawks chose to arrive unannounced at Gordhan's private residence on Tuesday morning.  

"On being told that the Minister has left for another engagement they preceded to the National Treasury offices and served the summons.

"Shortly thereafter, and again without the courtesy of a prior indication, the National Director of Public Prosecutions convened a press conference to unveil a set of charges that are patently without merit," it said.

At the press conference, National Director of Public Prosecutions Adv Shaun Abrahams outlined allegations concerning the Sars investigative unit, which he is not yet able to prosecute.

He then turned to the content of the summons, which, Treasury said, is concerned with the matters of an administrative – not criminal - nature.

"It is quite clear that these legal proceedings are contaminated by abuse for political ends."

Speaking at the Gauteng Open Tender Seminar on Tuesday morning Gordhan said: “This is a moment where all South Africans need to ask whose interests these people in the Hawks, the NPA and the NDPP are advancing. Where do they get their political instructions from and for what purpose?”

Treasury said Gordhan is ready to subject himself to a legitimate process of the law to bring this matter to rest in the interest of the country as soon as possible.

“I intend to continue doing my job," said Gordhan. "The cause of defending ethical leadership in government and throughout society is too important to allow ourselves to be deterred by this kind of harassment. The fight against corruption, maladministration, and waste of public resources will continue,” he said.

Gauteng Premier David Makhuram, who was also speaking at the Open Tender Seminar, has publicly displayed support for Gordhan.

He said “we believe in your ethical leadership. We believe in your ability to face this moment as you work hard and do your best to steer the economy collectively, on the right path.

“We trust as you go through this you will feel our weight, and not just feel the burden of the responsibility of being minister of finance.

“The truth will come out. The truth is too strong to be kept secret,” Makhura added.

ICYMI: A recap of how the latest Gordhan saga is unfolding.

FULL CHARGE SHEET: Pravin Gordhan accused of fraud
Zuma presses red button. Rand tanks on reports that FinMin Gordhan charged
Rand hedge stocks surge on shock Gordhan move
Makhura to Gordhan: ‘We believe in your ethical leadership’
Gordhan: ‘Who are the Hawks really serving?’
Only a miracle can save SA from junk - Dawie Roodt
Cape gang linked to Gordhan probe - report
The public must hold officials to account - Gordhan

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