SARS and Symington settle over 'hostage' case

Johannesburg – The North Gauteng High Court has rubber stamped a settlement agreement between the South African Revenue Service (SARS) and senior official Vlok Symington.

"The incident itself and the disciplinary charges that arose from the incident against Mr Symington and Mr Titi have been reviewed by SARS, and both parties have agreed that it would be in the best interest of all that these matters be settled," the tax agency said in a statement.

The agreement will end a long-standing dispute between the revenue service and legal specialist Symington, who alleges he was held hostage at SARS' Pretoria offices by Hawks members and former SARS Commissioner Tom Moyane's bodyguard, Thabo Titi. The incident involved alleged attempts to coerce Symington to hand over an email related to former Deputy Commissioner Ivan Pillay’s early retirement.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, SARS said the parties "agreed, in good faith, to bring all legal and other related proceedings against each other". This included disciplinary charges against both Symington and Titi.

The incident, which took place on October 18, 2016, prompted Symington to make a series of 10111 calls, after which he laid charges of kidnapping, intimidation, assault, robbery and theft. He also filed a complaint with IPID.

SARS later brought disciplinary action against Symington. The charges included gross misconduct, insubordination, use of foul language and bringing the name of SARS into disrepute.

Symington has faced setbacks during the legal proceedings. In April, a bid by rights group Freedom Under Law (FUL) to intervene in his battle against Sars as a friend of the court was turned down. FUL wished to seek whistleblower protection for Symington.

In September 2017, Symington's application for an interdict to prevent SARS from instituting disciplinary action against him was unsuccessful. Pretoria High Court Judge Hans-Joachim Fabricius argued the dispute between Symington and SARS could have been settled “with a handshake and a discussion over a beer”.

No further action will be taken against either party.

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