Wiese: This is the first time I've been sued by SARS

SA billionaire businessman Christo Wiese maintains his tax affairs are in order and says this is the first time he has ever been sued by the South African Revenue Service (SARS).

He was speaking in an interview with Business Day TV on Friday. This after he was implicated in a tax avoidance scheme, according to an amaBhungane reports that was published on Thursday.

Wiese, according to the amaBhungane report, was linked to a larger tax claim case stemming from the restructuring of an oil company called Tullow, which Wiese bought from law firm ENSafrica.

However, Wiese distanced himself from the restructuring at Tullow, which happened before he acquired the company.

He told Stephen Grootes in a separate interview on SAfm that he had been given a warranty that there were no tax liabilities on Tullow at the time of the acquisition.

"After a year or two - it appeared that SARS felt that there was indeed a tax liability emanating from the restructuring that happened a year prior (to the acquisition)." In terms of the warranty, Wiese sold the company back to ENSafrica.

Wiese said the rationale to acquire Tullow was for its distributable assets, to be used in business operations. "It had distributable reserve - which in our structures we use."

Tullow also had assessed losses and in terms of certain rules, one could use the loss in certain circumstances, he said.

"We tried to make use of it, SARS said no, and then we settled with SARS. We did not have a dispute with SARS, we settled," Wiese explained.

But in selling back Tullow, Wiese had tried to recover the assets that were put into the subsidiary, and that’s when the legal dispute with SARS for R217m arose. This matter is still to be heard in the high court.

Wiese did not deny that the Tullow acquisition would reduce his tax bill, when asked by Grootes. To this Grootes asked why Wiese, a rich man, simply did not just pay the taxes.

But Wiese said that he was one of the largest taxpayers in the country, and that he had never been in a legal dispute with SARS, up until now.

"We have had disagreements, as most taxpayers do and we always manage to reach a settlement with SARS. Sometimes painful settlements. I am not a SARS’ litigant," he said.

Wiese added that he is confident he did nothing wrong.

"In my case, I have never been sued by the receiver [of revenue]. This was the first time. In 50 years I’ve never been sued. I have had differences with the receiver [of revenue] and have always managed to settle," Wiese told Business Day TV.

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