Ex-SARS ‘rogue unit’ execs want summonses withdrawn

Three ex-South African Revenue Service (SARS) executives who allegedly played a role in the so-called “rogue unit” have written to the National Prosecuting Authority requesting that summonses against them be withdrawn.

They also want to be given the opportunity to submit representations for consideration by the NPA.

Ivan Pillay, Johann van Loggerenberg and Andries Janse van Rensburg were on Friday issued summons to appear in the Pretoria Regional Court on April 9 on charges of corruption and contravention of the Regulation of Interception of Communications and Provision of Communication-Related Information Act (RICA).

“Pillay, Van Loggerenberg and Janse van Rensburg emphatically deny the allegations against them and will rely on the integrity of the judicial process, which they are confident will vindicate them,” said Bernard Hotz, director at Werksmans Attorneys.

He told News24 that Werksmans Attorneys was representing the three men.

The Hawks have been investigating the former SARS High Risk Investigation Unit, as well as former SARS commissioner Pravin Gordhan, for allegedly taking part in illegal interceptions and spying.

The investigation has been fraught with allegations that it was being used as a political tool against Gordhan.

Discredited KPMG report

In a statement, Hotz said the charges for which his clients have been summonsed relate to investigations/documentary reviews that were conducted by KPMG on the instruction of SARS since 2014.

“At the outset, it must be noted that the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) had charged Mr Pillay in October 2016 on aspects from the same KPMG report. The NPA was later compelled to withdraw these charges as important exculpatory evidence – that was either withheld, hidden or not considered – was publicly disclosed, when the NPA’s decision to prosecute Pillay and others, including Minister Pravin Gordhan, was challenged by Freedom Under Law,” said Hotz.

The KPMG report has since been thoroughly discredited and KPMG itself has withdrawn the conclusions, findings and recommendations, he explained.

“KPMG and its auditors are now the subject of investigations by IRBA (the Independent Regulatory Board for Auditors) and SAICA (the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants),” he said.

Secondly, Hotz said, these charges arose from the same case for which Pillay and Van Loggerenberg were summoned for warning statements in September 2016 by the Hawks.

The complainant in that case is SARS commissioner Tom Moyane, according to Hotz.

NPA ‘biased, malicious’

“At no point during the process of taking their warning statements were Pillay and Van Loggerenberg questioned on any allegations or facts which speak to the latest charges. On the contrary, they offered to make representations to the DPCI (Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation) and the NPA which were ignored. The process of concluding the warning statements at that time was never perfected because the docket was handed over to the NPA by the DPCI before Pillay and Van Loggerenberg were given a chance to be heard,” he said.

Pillay and Van Loggerenberg were disappointed but not surprised by the latest behaviour of the NPA in this matter, said Hotz.

“As they have consistently demonstrated clear bias and malice, which appear to have been driven by the concerns of Moyane”, he said.

It is for this reason that Freedom Under Law (FUL) brought a court application in 2016 to review the conduct of the NPA head Shaun Abrahams and his deputies – Advocate Torie Pretorius and Advocate Sibongile Mzinyathi, he said.

“Their behaviour is neither objective nor impartial,” Hotz added.

Johann Kriegler of FUL also accused the NPA of acting under the instructions of Moyane.

‘Project Sunday Evenings’

“Freedom Under Law is convinced that the current allegations are as groundless as those of 2016 and will suffer the same fate,” said Kriegler.

He said they had noted that the new charges against Pillay and Van Loggerenberg were presented without any enquiry, forewarning or opportunity to make representations.

“This is in such contrast to the courtesies accorded others that there is every reason to question the motive behind these renewed allegations. Freedom Under Law is consequently writing to the President (Cyril Ramaphosa) urging him to consider suspending Abrahams and his senior colleagues Pretorius and Mzinyathi forthwith,” he said.

Hawks spokesperson Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi confirmed the summonses had been issued on Friday.

He dismissed speculation that Gordhan would be served a summons too as a rumour.

Among the series of articles that ran in the Sunday Times newspaper in 2014 around the rogue unit were articles about Project Sunday Evenings, an alleged spy operation which supposedly saw members of the SARS “rogue unit” plant surveillance equipment inside the offices of the NPA in Pretoria.

The articles were later discredited by the Press Ombudsman and the paper retracted some of them.

The alleged bugging occurred in 2007 according to the newspaper and was allegedly sanctioned by then SARS deputy commissioner Pillay.

Project Sunday Evenings was allegedly carried out by Van Rensburg, a former intelligence operative who first headed the SARS unit that would later be accused of executing “rogue” projects. – News24

This article has been amended to reflect updates

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