Top Sars official and academics face fraud charges
09 October 2015
Posted by: Author: News24
A former top official at the SA Revenue Service (Sars) and former business partner of First Lady Thobeka Madiba Zuma has denied guilt to charges of racketeering, money laundering, corruption and fraud.
Mandisa Mokwena, 48, who headed Sars' Risk Management division before being appointed as group executive of the Segmentation and Research Division, resigned in December 2009 after disciplinary charges were brought against her.
She was arrested a few days later.
Mokwena and eight of her colleagues, friends and former academic acquaintances pleaded not guilty in the High Court in Pretoria to a main charge of racketeering and more than 40 further charges of corruption, fraud and money laundering.
Her co-accused are the former Director of the School of Economic Sciences at Unisa, Oludele Akinboade, his wife Ashuma, Emilie Djoumessi (who worked under Akinboade at Unisa), Professor Agyapong Gyekye (Dean of the School of Management Services at the Venda University), businesswoman Boitumelo Boshego, Professor Maria Makofane, the former cost centre manager at Sars Leslie Moonsamy and Mokwena's former assistant Reneile Malati.
Mokwena did not give any explanation of her plea, but from questions by her senior advocate Stephen Joseph SC it became clear that she claimed to have fallen victim to a plot by senior government officials and a "rogue" Sars spy unit allegedly led by former investigator Johan van Loggerenberg which was intent on destroying her career.
Van Loggerenberg has since resigned.
After initial indications that Professor Gyekye might plead guilty to some of the charges, he appointed a new legal representative and pleaded not guilty to all of the charges against him.
Mokwena's former colleagues Moonsamy and Malati said in their plea explanations they were only doing their jobs and had no knowledge of an alleged corrupt enterprise aimed at enriching Mokwena and her fellow accused.
Moonsamy said he was not authorised and never dealt with nor spent any Sars funds at all while Malati said she was merely a clerk who had no role to play in identifying any needs or requesting any quotations for Sars contracts.
The State alleges Mokwena and the others had conducted a corrupt enterprise through a pattern of racketeering aimed at obtaining contracts worth more than R11m in respect of training and research from the Risk Management and Research divisions at Sars.
They allegedly manipulated the Sars procurement process to secure contracts at inflated prices while excluding competition by using false quotations.
It is alleged that Mokwena had between 2007 and 2009 received payments of about R977 000 from some of her fellow accused to which she was not entitled and that she had convinced Akinboade to pay R660 000 into her husband Bernard's account to hide her business relationship with the professor.
Theresa Kannemeyer, former manager of the now disbanded East Vaal anti-corruption and security unit of Sars, testified that she was in August 2009 asked to study a report by auditors PriceWaterhouseCooper (PwC) to see if disciplinary action should be taken against any employees.
She briefed former Sars Commissioner Oupa Magashula and told him she believed the PwC report, which only dealt with two transactions, was the tip of the iceberg and there might be more serious transgressions.
She also believed there should be a proper investigation because she was not satisfied with the PwC report which could not be used in a criminal trial.
The Commissioner personally asked her to draft Mokwena's suspension letter. It was the first and only time for such a senior member of Sars who was part of the executive committee to be suspended and Mokwena was also the most senior person she ever had to investigate.
According to Kannemeyer he also gave her a free hand to appoint investigators of her choosing.
Kannemeyer said she was aware of reports about an alleged rogue unit which connected former senior Sars investigator Johan van Loggerenberg and suspended deputy Sars commissioner Ivan Pillay to alleged "shady operations" and that Van Loggerenberg was accused of interfering in cases.
"I'm here to assure the court that this investigation was conducted in a proper manner and there was no interference of shady deals," she said.
She admitted that Van Loggerenberg had phoned her about the investigation and told her the two investigators would come to see her, but insisted she had already chosen the investigators at that stage. As far as she knew, they did not report directly to Van Loggerenberg..
She objected to a suggestion by Mokwena's advocate that evidence which showed that Mokwena was innocent was not placed before the court.
It was put to her that Van Loggerenberg was ordered to conduct investigations into Mokwena and her two colleagues "to destroy their careers" but Kannemeyer said Mokwena had destroyed her own career.
Sidney Kotlolo, a buyer for the procurement section at Sars, testified about numerous contracts that were awarded on the strength of what appeared to be the lowest price out of three competing quotations.
He said he would never have authorised purchase orders for the contracts if he knew the quotes came from the same source, were simultaneously issued and did not reflect a competitive process.
The trial continues on Friday.
This article first appeared on news24.com.