/ 11 October 2016

Pravin Gordhan summoned to court, charged with fraud

Newly appointed NPA director Shaun Abrahams promised that
Newly appointed NPA director Shaun Abrahams promised that

Finance minister Pravin Gordhan has been issued with a summons after being charged with fraud in relation to former SARS deputy commissioner Ivan Pillay’s early retirement. National Prosecuting Authority head, Shaun Abrahams, made the announcement at a press briefing on Tuesday.

Former Sars commissioner Oupa Magashula and former deputy Sars Commissioner Ivan Pillay have also been issued with summons. Abrahams spoke also of the “rogue unit” which allegedly operated inside Sars under Gordhan’s leadership, but said that the charges of fraud have nothing to do with the unit.

In 2010, Pillay retired early from Sars and received full benefits. His early retirement with full benefits was approved by Gordhan, who was commissioner of Sars, and authorised by Magashula. Abrahams said that the decision had cost Sars around R1.1-million. In August 2016, however, Gordhan responded to a question by the Hawks on the matter, saying everything had been above board in Pillay’s retirement. The charge on the second count of fraud is in relation to contravention of the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA).

Abrahams also said that charges could be pending against Gordhan for his alleged involvement in overseeing the formation of the alleged Sars “rogue unit”. The timing of the NPA’s announcement has been met with suspicion, with commentators saying that the charges are a sign of defiance from President Zuma in response to outgoing public protector Thuli Madonsela’s probe into the alleged state capture by the Gupta family.

Abrahams said, however, that there has been no political posturing within the NPA.

“I can assure you there has been no political interference in this matter,” he said. “There has been no interference in the decision making.”

Gordhan was attending the Open Tender Seminar, which was hosted by the Gauteng provincial government, at the time Abrahams made the announcement. Gordhan told Power FM’s Iman Rappetti that he has yet to receive the summons. While at the event ,the finance minister appeared relaxed, and reportedly took selfies and signed autographs for those in attendance. Gordhan received a standing ovation at the event, where he spoke on the significance of transparency in awarding tenders. According to Rappetti, Gordhan reportedly said at the event that “this is a moment South Africa must ask who the Hawks are and who they are serving”.

The Hawks initially publically denied that they were investigating the existence of the “rogue unit” at Sars. They subsequently admitted an investigation is taking place. The debacle around Gordhan’s involvement in the alleged “rogue unit” began at the end of 2015, when he was appointed finance minister after Nhlanhla Nene and Des van Rooyen were dismissed in quick succession.

Gordhan has previously said that he did not receive any financial benefit from Pillay’s early retirement. Pillay, Gordhan and Magashula are summoned to appear in court on November 2.

See the full charge sheet HERE.