Disputed secret intelligence report slams SARS, Gordhan and gushes over the SSA

The front page of the Sunday Times, 12 October 2014. (File)
The front page of the Sunday Times, 12 October 2014. (File)

The controversial Inspector General of Intelligence (IGI) report into the activities of the SA Revenue Service (SARS) investigations unit, recommends that Pravin Gordhan and others must be criminally investigated, exonerates the State Security Agency (SSA) and finds that SARS acted illegally and obstructed investigations into tax offenders.

READ | EFF releases classified intelligence report into SARS 'rogue' unit linked to Gordhan

The report, marked as "secret" and which was leaked to the EFF and attached to court papers by the party's leaders, Julius Malema and Floyd Shivambu, mirrors similar findings made in a range of investigations into the SARS investigations unit, including the report by the Sikhakane panel, the Kroon report and the KPMG report. Both the Kroon and KPMG reports have been disavowed by their owners.

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane also found that the SARS investigation unit conducted its affairs illegally and that action must be taken against a range of individuals involved in the investigations unit, including Gordhan (who was SARS commissioner until 2009), his deputy Ivan Pillay and Johann van Loggerenberg, who managed the unit.

Andries Janse van Rensburg, Ivan Pillay and Johan van Loggerenberg appear in the Pretoria Magistrates' Court. (Alex Mitchley, News24)

These findings are being challenged in the High Court, with Gordhan (now Minister of Public Enterprises), Pillay and Van Loggerenberg rejecting her findings.

They argue the unit was legal, conducted its affairs legally and that the attacks on SARS and the unit were political and launched as part of the broader state capture offensive.

The IGI report, published on the EFF website, slams SARS and finds that it "created a covert unit utilising covert and intrusive methods in direct contravention of the SARS mandate as provided for in the tax administration act".

It says SARS, under the leadership of Gordhan, Pillay and Van Loggerenberg, contravened various laws which govern the intelligence services and that the investigations unit "is clearly illegal".

"It is recommended that criminal charges be investigated against Mr Pillay, Mr Gordhan, Mr Van Loggerenberg and Mr [Pete] Richer," the IGI says.

The report further finds and recommends that:

  •   SARS had an interception and monitoring capability that "was used for political purposes";
  •   the SSA must investigate the SARS unit and the media; and
  •   SARS undermined the Constitution.

The investigation was conducted by then-intelligence inspector general, Faith Radebe.

It was commissioned by then-state security minister David Mahlobo following a City Press report by Jacques Pauw on August 10, 2014, detailing the activities of the Special Operations Unit (SOU) of the SSA.

Pauw reported that the SOU "used state resources to conduct dirty tricks campaigns, smuggle cigarettes and disgrace top civil servants" and that the unit's intention was to remove the top leadership of SARS.

The investigation's mandate was to consider the claims in the City Press report and focus on the role of the SSA and the SOU. The report was completed in less than three months and handed to Mahlobo on October 31, 2014.

Its entire focus, however, became SARS and not the SSA/SOU, as was Mahlobo's request to the IGI.

The IGI exonerates the SSA and the SOU and finds that there was no evidence to support Pauw's story in City Press, and that "fabricated information" was passed to the newspaper " to attract attention from SARS".

It adds: "It is clear that the SOU of the SSA appears to be targeted."

Pravin Gordhan, Zondo-kommissie

Pravin Gordhan at the Zondo commission (Felix Dlangamandla/Netwerk24)

The IGI recommends that City Press be investigated "to establish the real motive for this particular newspaper publishing disinformation".

The report is gushing over the conduct of the SSA, variously stating that:

  • "We could find no impropriety on the part of the SSA…"
  • "It is further recommended that the SSA be commended…"
  • "The SSA and its former components cannot be faulted…"
  • "The SSA and its former NIA (National Intelligence Agency) component conducted themselves professionally and the SSA has been exonerated from any unlawful conduct."

The report leans heavily on interviews conducted with former SARS employees, Mike Peega and Mandisa Mokwena, and a document titled "Project Snowman".

Peega was previously arrested for the smuggling of rhino horn, Mokwena was acquitted of fraud charges, and the Snowman document was also rejected as disinformation by the SARS leadership in 2013.

(Image via SARS website)

The Nugent commission of inquiry into tax administration, led by retired judge Robert Nugent and commissioned by President Cyril Ramaphosa, earlier this year said it was "unclear" why the unit was considered to be unlawful and that the disbandment of the unit and subsequent events "did great damage" to the country and SARS.

It is unclear when the review application by Gordhan and others into Mkhwebane's report about the SARS investigation unit will be heard.

The defamation suit brought by Gordhan against Malema – of which the IGI report forms part – will be heard in the Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg on October 24 and 25.

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