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Sars Rogue Unit case: criminal charges conveniently withdrawn

Former South African Revenue Services Rogue Unit officials Ivan Pillay (second left), Andries Janse van Rensburg (middle) and Johann van Loggerenberg (right). Image credit: Zelda Venter/Pretoria News.

By BO Staff Writer

Dropping of charges

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) announced on Friday that it will be withdrawing charges against the erstwhile South African Revenue Service (SARS) employees regarding the Rogue Unit case. The charges include allegations that they had established the Rogue Unit to spy on certain individuals and other entities.

“The National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP), Adv Shamila Batohi, has decided to withdraw charges against Ivan Pillay, Andries Janse Van Rensburg and Johan Van Loggerenberg. The NDPP has informed relevant prosecutors and the lawyers representing the accused of this decision,” Bulelwa Makeke, the NPA spokesperson said.

Subsequent to representations to the NDPP by the defence to review the decision to prosecute those charged, a review panel was established to consider the case and to “provide her with an opinion and recommendations”.

The panel concluded that no reasonable prospects of successfully prosecuting the accused persons exist; and recommended the withdrawal of all charges in this respect. The NDPP on her part agreed with the conclusion and recommendation of the panel and accordingly withdrew all charges.

It is instructive that Gordhan and Trevor Manuel (SARS commissioner and Minister of Finance at the relevant time) have not even been charged for their key involvement in the setting up and operationalization of the Rogue Unit. The withdrawal of the charges by the NPA also serves to exonerate Gordhan and Manuel from their conduct relating to the Rogue Unit saga.

Andile Mngxitama, the President of Black First Land First (BLF), took to Twitter to express his condemnation of the NPA’s decision. He pointed out that the evidence is substantial; Pravin and Cyril are involved; Noseweek has done great investigative journalism in exposing the criminality concerned; the NPA is protecting Gordhan by withdrawing the charges; and thumanina is on the move shamelessly.

Gordhan was the face of the regime change agenda – of imperialism in cahoots with settler white monopoly capital – which removed Jacob Zuma as President and replaced him with Cyril Ramaphosa. The Rogue Unit was used as a tool in furtherance of that agenda. The forces behind regime change also appointed Gordhan as Minister of Finance.

Mngxitama further questioned the NPA’s motive – in the context of overwhelming evidence – in not prosecuting those implicated via a trial; and in setting up a pseudo court under the guise of a panel to make a determination on the matter.

Mngxitama then lambasted the NPA driven process as being handled by white monopoly capital (WMC) to demonstrate that Gordhan is really in charge.

Material evidence in Rogue Unit case

On 5 July last year, the Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane made adverse findings against Pravin Gordhan in relation to the establishment of the “rogue unit” in 2007 at SARS.

The Rogue Unit, which was initially named the Special Projects Unit in 2007 and later the High Risk Investigations Unit (HRIU), was approved by the then minister of finance, Trevor Manuel, as well as Gordhan as Commissioner of SARS.

It was set up at SARS to give it intelligence capabilities to spy on politicians and other entities to further regime change in the country. It made headlines when the Sunday Times revealed from 2014 to 2015 that the Rogue Unit: had bugged President Zuma’s home in Forest Town as well as the offices of the NPA in 2007; had spied on politicians; had a slush fund of millions; and had conducted covert spying operations on politicians.

The Public Protector’s Report on the Rogue Unit found, amongst other things, that: the establishment of the SARS “rogue unit” was unlawful; the Rogue Unit was established when Pravin Gordhan was SARS Commissioner and he ought to have known of this; the Rogue Unit ‘obtained illegal equipment to conduct intelligence operations’; the Rogue Unit was set up without the involvement of the State Security Agency (SSA); and Oupa Magashula (appointed as SARS commissioner on 30 July 2009) lied under oath during his interview with the Public Protector by denying the existence of the Rogue Unit.

Four investigations have found that there was an illegally established spy unit or a “rogue unit” at SARS. First was the investigation by Advocate Kanyane, followed by an investigation by Advocate Muzi Sikhakhane, then another investigation by the SARS Advisory Board headed by Judge Frank Kroon and lastly there was one by KPMG. Sikhakhane and Kroon found that the “rogue unit” was unlawfully established. Their findings have been corroborated by the KPMG investigation.

Public Protector’s previous findings on Ivan Pillay

The damning findings of the Public Protector in relation to her investigation on Ivan Pillay is very significant (the same Pillay who is an accused in the rogue unit case). Her findings suggest sufficient evidence of criminality on the part of both Gordhan and Pillay. To this end the Public Protector found:

a. Gordhan was in violation of the Constitution in that in 2010 he approved the early retirement and pension payout of Ivan Pillay, the former SARS deputy commissioner. To this end Pillay was paid pension benefits in full and a day later was re-employed on a contract basis by SARS.

b. the process (entailing his retirement, pension payout and re-employment) was irregular

c. Pillay had no intention in the circumstances of resigning

d. SARS must pay the the shortfall to the Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF) in the amount of R1.1m. More specifically the current SARS commissioner must recover this money from Gordhan and Pillay.

Public Protector’s findings on Ramaphosa

It is significant that Mkhwebane has found that Ramaphosa misled parliament; violated the executive ethics code and acted inconsistently with his office. She also found prima facie evidence of money laundering in the over R400m donations to the CR17 campaign. Her investigation related to a donation of R500,000 made by Bosasa head Gavin Watson in 2017 to the CR17 campaign. Watson has since the release of Mkhwebane‘s report been murdered reportedly to cover up the relevant evidence.

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