- Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan's lawyers have argued there is no evidence he was complicit in the establishment of an illegal unit in SARS.
- His lawyer, Wim Trengove SC, said there was also no evidence of any illegal wiretapping, despite controversy around this.
- Gordhan has taken the Public Protector's report concerning his involvement in the establishment of the unit on review.
There is not a "shred of evidence" suggesting Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan was involved in the establishment of the so-called SARS rogue unit, the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria has heard.
This is according to Gordhan's legal representative, advocate Wim Trengove SC, in the matter with Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane on Thursday.
Gordhan has taken Mkhwebane's report concerning his involvement in the establishment of the unit, on review.
Mkhwebane found that Gordhan lied to Parliament in saying he had no interactions with the Gupta family and that he was involved in the establishment of an illegal intelligence gathering unit.
Trengove argued that according to a memorandum sent to then-minister of finance Trevor Manuel, as well as another memo between former SARS deputy commissioner Ivan Pillay and Johann van Loggerenberg, then head of the SARS Investigating Unit, the unit was established for lawful purposes.
While Pillay would have reported to Gordhan on the establishment of the unit, it would have been on the basis of these memoranda.
Trengove said that these memoranda explained that the unit was established for tax enforcement purposes and that it would employ lawful means to do so.
"When they speak of information gathering and penetration of organised crime syndicates, what they mean is to recruit informants and to keep the activities of the crime syndicates under observation.
"There is absolutely not a shred of evidence to suggest that Minister Gordhan was in any way or at any time complicit in the establishment of an illegal unit," Trengove argued.
Illegal wire tapping
Trengove added that there is also no evidence of any illegal wiretapping, despite controversy around this.
He said these allegations were "absurd" because all wiretapping in the country was regulated by the Regulation of Interception of Communications Act (RICA), which stipulates that interception of third-party communication is illegal, with a few exceptions.
He added that only law enforcement agencies, including the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), can apply for permission to wiretap.
"There was never any intention to wiretap anybody, even when the unit was established within the NIA, without the authority of a judge," Trengove said, adding SARS itself did not have authority to apply for permission to wiretap.
"Nobody ever intended to wiretap anything without the permission of a judge and that became impossible when the unit was established in SARS and no longer in the NIA.
"To suggest that minister Gordhan authorised to engage in illegal wiretapping is just absurd because there is no evidence in support of it whatsoever."
The case continues.