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SARS investigator resigns amid probe into alleged misconduct

A senior South African Revenue Service employee, who was previously identified as being at the helm of a “rogue unit” within the service, has resigned with immediate effect.

News24 has received confirmation from attorney Michael Strauss that Yegan Mundie, an acting senior manager for fraud investigations, submitted a letter of resignation on Tuesday after being suspended in June.

According to SARS insiders, he resigned before an investigation into serious allegations of misconduct against him could be finalised.

Mundie, through his attorney Michael Strauss, denied all the allegations against him and indicated a formal written response to queries from News24 would be forthcoming on Wednesday.

Mundie was officially tasked with investigating SARS staff in connection with fraud. Allegations arose however that the unit was involved in a far more sinister plot to oust senior SARS staff through targeted investigations, which SARS previously denied.

In November last year, News24 revealed that Mundie’s unit was involved in investigating Kumaran Moodley, lauded as one of SARS’ most experienced customs investigators as well as Yousuf Denath, a senior manager in the anti-corruption and security section. Both were suspended as a result of Mundie’s work.

Ronel van Wyk, a well-respected and top investigator at SARS, also resigned in light of an investigation by Mundie. She was involved in some of SARS’ biggest cases that resulted in tax assessments exceeding R3bn.

But earlier this year, Mundie came under investigation and was suspended early in June 2018.

At the time of his suspension, SARS insiders told News24 on Tuesday, he was being investigated for unlawfully possessing and distributing State Security Agency communication intercepts with individuals associated with the tobacco industry, botched investigations relating to the tobacco industry, unlawful interference in the Mark Lifman R380m tax case as well as unlawfully and illegally releasing a fraudulent VAT refund.

“My client obviously denies all the allegations,” said Strauss. READ: New ‘rogue-type unit’ operating at SARS

Mundie, before joining SARS, worked for the South African Police Service and previously worked for the Anti-Corruption and Security Unit (ACAS) within SARS.

After the appointment of now suspended SARS commissioner Tom Moyane, who disbanded a number of units within the revenue agency, the “Mundie unit” was born.

In November 2017, Moyane initially denied the existence of the unit, News24 reported. But the next week, in a letter to then finance minister Pravin Gordhan, Moyane acknowledged the unit’s existence.

“The SARS officials’ mandate is only in as far as it relates to SARS employees involved in alleged criminal activities and tax matters. The team operates in SARS offices and are known in SARS that they are targeting criminal syndicates in SARS,” Moyane wrote to Gordhan at the time.

Mundie’s resignation comes as previous operations at SARS are in sharp focus at the Nugent Commission of Inquiry, which, as part of its broad terms of reference, is trying to establish facts around a possible failure of governance at SARS since 2014.

Moyane’s disciplinary hearing also commenced on Saturday after he was suspended by President Cyril Ramaphosa in March. READ: List of senior employees leaving SARS grows

SARS previously denied any wrongdoing by the unit and at the time of writing, had not responded to a request to comment on Mundie’s resignation.

News24 revealed however that the “Mundie unit” had allegedly conducted an “undercover” investigation into Gordhan and the now defunct High Risk Investigations Unit, or the “rogue unit” as it became known.

In September last year, News24 reported that after nearly two years of being investigated by the Hawks, the former SARS chief officer in charge of Tax and Customs Enforcement, Gene Ravele, had all charges against him dropped in relation to the unit.

This had further cemented a belief that apparent selective prosecutions were happening at the organisation, with those close to Moyane being protected and others targeted. 

It was also reported that forensic investigator Paul O’Sullivan opened a corruption case against Mundie in November 2016 after he linked him to Taiwanese businessman, Jen-Chih “Robert” Huang through his wife, who was employed by Huang’s Mpisi Trading 74 while SARS was investigating the company.

SARS had defended Mundie, saying that when he joined the organisation in 2008, he informed management of his relationship with Mpisi Trading and he was not exposed to the affairs of the taxpayer. — News24

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Kyle Cowan
Kyle Cowan

Kyle Cowan is an investigative journalist at News 24.

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