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SARS cases at risk as top official resigns

Thursday, 05 February 2015   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Author: Natasha Marrian
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Author: Natasha Marrian (BDlive)

High-profile investigations by the South African Revenue Service (SARS) could be at risk after the resignation on Wednesday of the executive in charge of enforcement and investigations, Johann van Loggerenberg, and a reshuffling of units he supervised.

One of the cases involves Czech fugitive Radovan Krejcir.

A preservation order obtained in the High Court by SARS, placing the assets of Krejcir under the control of a curator, dealt a serious blow to his empire. The founding affidavit by SARS was signed by Mr van Loggerenberg.

Sources on Wednesday said that two units Mr van Loggerenberg oversaw were in a "shambles" as one had been disbanded and in the other the unit head had been shifted without clear reasons.

Mr van Loggerenberg’s resignation follows the departure on Friday of anticorruption and security head Clifford Collings, who, after a disciplinary hearing over his failure to deliver a car for SARS commissioner Tom Moyane on time, opted for early retirement.

Since December, chief operating officer Barry Hore, his deputy Jerome Frey, Mr Collings and Mr van Loggerenberg have parted ways with SARS. Deputy commissioner Ivan Pillay, head of strategic planning and risk Peter Richer and special adviser to Mr Pillay Yolisa Pikie remain suspended.

However, since Mr van Loggerenberg’s suspension in May last year, an individual had filled his post in an acting capacity, employment relations executive Luther Lebelo said on Wednesday. He declined to name the person.

"That person has done great work since May. Mr van Loggerenberg was not an investigator, but a manager. He had many investigators working under him," Mr Lebelo said.

"Nothing that was done by SARS will be affected," he said.

It is understood that Mr van Loggerenberg’s deputy, Pieter Engelbrecht, has also been moved within the organisation.

Mr van Loggerenberg ran five units: the national projects unit, the centralised projects unit, evidence management, the forensic laboratory and the high-risk investigations unit.

The high-risk investigations unit, which comprised six individuals, was disbanded by Mr Moyane late last year. It was investigated by a panel led by advocate Muzi Sikhakhane, and Mr Pillay was suspended for running the unit.

It was reported in the Sunday Times that the unit was engaged in illicit, covert activity that included running a brothel and spying on President Jacob Zuma.

The investigations headed by Mr van Loggerenberg included those into Mr Krejcir. They also included a tax inquiry into Jen Chih "Robert" Huang, who reportedly has links to the Zuma family through the president’s nephew, Khulubuse. Another investigation headed by Mr van Loggerenberg, according to sources, is into Mark Lifman, an alleged gangster from Cape Town, who reportedly attended an African National Congress function as a VIP guest last year.

Mr van Loggerenberg, in a statement on Wednesday, acknowledged that he had erred in his conduct while at SARS. He is at the centre of the tumult which hit the agency in recent months after reports of his affair with a lawyer for the tobacco industry, Belinda Walter, who claimed he revealed sensitive information to her.

Mr van Loggerenberg said his resignation was "by mutual agreement" between him and SARS and was in "good faith".

"I acknowledge that I erred in personal judgment concerning a matter in my private life and that this led to unforeseen consequences that were outside of my control. I believe I need to take responsibility and accountability for this," he said.

He encouraged remaining staff to support Mr Moyane and confirmed that the matter between SARS and himself had been "fully and finally dealt with, completely so and in all respects".

Mr Lebelo said that while SARS considered the matter "fully and finally dealt with" in terms of the disciplinary process against Mr van Loggerenberg, it reserved its right in terms of legal matters in future. "The disciplinary (hearing) has been finalised, but on any other matter, SARS reserves its right. All matters will proceed as normal," Mr Lebelo said.

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