Former workers at South Africa Revenue Service have slammed Police Minister Nkosinathi Nhleko for briefing the media about the Hawks investigation on the so-called ‘rogue unit’ at Sars.
Former acting Sars commissioner Ivan Pillay and former Sars group executive for strategy, risk and planning Peter Richer, threatened to take the matter to court because according to them, Nhleko’s public statement “is a violation of our rights to dignity and reputation”.
The duo were employees in Sars but they dropped their resignation letters after Sar’s disciplinary investigation about the formation of the ‘rogue unit’ found them guilty.
In a joint statement released by the former workers, they said:
“Allegations that the investigative units in SARS were unlawful and illegal, operated front companies including running a brothel, bugged President Jacob Zuma, spied on taxpayers and entered into illegal settlements for tax disputes, gave certain taxpayers preferential treatment, infiltrated taxpayers, broke into homes and planted listening devices and the like, are all false and unsubstantiated.
“In addition, the allegation that SARS, during our time as managers, purchased and used sophisticated spyware is false and unsubstantiated.”
The aggrieved workers also indicated that Police Minister Nhleko failed to particularize which breaches of law the Hawks were investigating, and did not recognize Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan’s contention that the “National Research Group (NRG) and other investigative units at Sars were established lawfully, with ministerial approval, operated within Sars legal and policy framework and generated significant tax revenue for South Africa.”
“We reiterate again: The NRG, and subsequent investigative units in SARS, were legally constituted and did admirable work to disrupt activities in the illicit economy. Its finances were approved transparently in the normal way of SARS budgeting processes and was audited by the Auditor General every year,” Pillay and Richer adduced in the statement.
The duo surmised that what is left now is to legally defend themselves because since they left Sars, lots of investigations have been carried yet their own side of the story has often being misrepresented.
“We are left with no other option than to seek legal advice and to take appropriate action to defend ourselves. To date, all investigations that have been instituted against us, either by SARS or other state institutions, have never afforded us a fair opportunity to be heard or to have our side of the story represented.”
Reacting in a statement too, former head of the so-called ‘rogue unit’ Johann van Loggerenberg, affirmed that Sars investigative units were lawfully established. He maintained that he had never refused cooperating with the Hawks in their investigation.
He refuted Nhleko’s postulation that the rogue unit illegally procured equipment and assets such as eavesdropping equipment, to spy on taxpayers.
Loggerenberg added that with Nhleko’s public statement, he is left with no option than to seek legal advice on and if need be, “heed to legal advice to act in my own best interests”.
Nhleko’s public statement about the Hawks investigation in Sars has led to a public outcry, with many people telling the police minister to stay away from the matter.
Part of the police minister statement reads, “The fact that questions would have been sent to an individual does not mean that individual is necessarily facing an investigation or is being charged for that matter. Those are formal processes.”