South Africa 30.5.2016 07:30 am

SPECIAL REPORT: Truth about Gordhan arrest

Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan. Picture: Neil McCartney

Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan. Picture: Neil McCartney

What is the real basis of the ongoing case that is apparently being built by the Hawks against Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and his former SA Revenue Service (Sars) colleagues from his years as the Sars commissioner?

Despite asking the police to elaborate on why they are after the finance minister, they still decline to offer any reasons. City Press reported yesterday that the docket against Gordhan is currently active, and it was opened last year in May by current Sars commissioner Tom Moyane against former deputy commissioner Ivan Pillay.

Moyane also lodged his criminal case against Johann van Loggerenberg, who was the head of the High-Risk Investigations Unit at Sars (what has now become known as “the rogue unit” around which all these allegations centre), along with other former Sars officials and Gordhan.

The current Sars boss is said to be a President Jacob Zuma loyalist who the president refused to fire despite Gordhan reportedly asking him to do so.

Former deputy commissioner Ivan Pillay. Photo: Gallo Images / City Press / Elizabeth Sejake.

Former Sars deputy commissioner Ivan Pillay. Photo: Gallo Images / City Press / Elizabeth Sejake.

City Press’s investigations have found that Moyane’s case was closed in December, but was “suddenly reopened this week”, which would lend credence to reports, despite denials by the presidency to the contrary, that efforts are indeed under way to attempt to arrest the finance minister.

A senior crime intelligence commander told the Sunday paper that Gordhan’s case was transferred to the police’s crime intelligence unit because the Hawks were “not making sufficient progress”.

The conclusion is that police crime intelligence is apparently doing all it can to assist in the case against Gordhan.

But why? And did the man ever do anything wrong? The Citizen‘s investigations would suggest that he did not.

A timeline of Sars' High-Risk Investigations Unit

A timeline of Sars’ High-Risk Investigations Unit

 

A history of fighting crime, not committing it

The truth is that the Hawks have known since at least 2014 about all the allegations of fraud, corruption and money laundering at Sars, but the State Security Agency (SSA) never had any concerns about the taxman’s High Risk Investigations Unit as far back as 2010, and for all the years thereafter.

All the available evidence continues to suggest that the Sars unit was legally constituted and managed, which has raised concerns about why it has become a target for the Hawks. The crack squad of detectives took a special interest in the case again shortly after Gordhan’s reappointment as finance minister, evidenced by their infamous sending of “27 questions” to him.

Hawks head Mthandazo Berning Ntlemeza. Picture: Gallo

Hawks head Mthandazo Berning Ntlemeza. Picture: Gallo

The SSA is the body best placed to make an assessment of whether anyone has engaged in illegal surveillance, which is what Sars has been accused of since 2014.

Lars’ former group executive and the erstwhile head of the investigations unit, Van Loggerenberg, has told The Citizen that had cooperated with the Hawks to the full extent possible to try to clear his name: “Following a host of defamatory and false allegations against me by a former romantic partner of mine [Pretoria lawyer and alleged spy Belinda Walter] and only after the demise of that relationship, my attorneys wrote to the Hawks, offering my full cooperation, my complete availability, and I denied having done anything wrong.”

He believes he and his colleagues are being targeted because they unearthed explosive evidence of criminal behaviour against powerful individuals.

“Following this, I personally visited a very senior Hawks official in early 2015, with a view to handing over an affidavit with substantiating evidence of what I believed to be prima facie evidence of corruption, money laundering, fraud and a range of other criminal activities,” Van Loggerenberg said, believing his unit’s work showed why people were trying to discredit him, Sars and the unit.

Johann van Loggerenberg

Johann van Loggerenberg, the former group executive at Sars, whose relationship with Belinda Walter going sour contributed to numerous false reports about a ‘rogue unit’ in the media

This year, his lawyers wrote to the Hawks again, confirming his availability for questioning.

“I have never received any meaningful reply,” said Van Loggerenberg, suggesting that the aim of the investigation was not to determine evidence of his guilt or innocence, but merely to cast doubt on the integrity of Sars at the time he and his colleagues were in charge.

Yolisa Pikie, the former adviser to Sars deputy head Pillay – who is also in the Hawks’ sights – wrote on a Facebook page devoted to supporting Gordhan that “all [Sars’] programmes and personnel were subjected to an investigation by the State Security Agency in 2010, which found nothing untoward”.

Notes in the public domain from meetings between the SSA and Sars also prove this is true.

Police Minister Nkosinathi Nhleko confirmed last week that the Hawks investigation into the “rogue unit” was continuing, while continuing to obfuscate exactly what was being investigated.

“There are investigations; there are enquiries, whatever they are, around the question of the Sars rogue unit,” said Nhleko.

Minister of Police Nathi Nhleko. Picture: Alaister Russell

Minister of Police Nathi Nhleko. Picture: Alaister Russell

This despite the Sunday Times recently using a full page to apologise for most of the accusations it had earlier published about Sars.

The case that’s not being investigated

In reality, the Sars unit uncovered “multiple instances” of officials in state intelligence, the Hawks and police crime intelligence, along with a private security company and Big Tobacco, being involved in fraud, corruption, illegal interceptions, illegal spying in Zimbabwe and defrauding Sars.

The taxman’s investigations stopped in September 2014, at the height of the Sunday Times’s systemic attack on the Sars unit. The newspaper accused the unit, among other things, of running a brothel and spying on President Jacob Zuma. It could not substantiate the allegations and has since withdrawn most of them.

As for what the unit was really doing, far be it from engaging in anything criminal, documents seen by The Citizen show that its projects in fact investigated fraud, corruption, illegal interceptions and defrauding of Sars that involved officials at the Hawks, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), crime intelligence, and an intelligence contract agent, allegedly a close friend of Zuma’s.

All of this should raise questions about why the Hawks – and crime intelligence, now – are investigating individuals who were themselves investigating the police and the Hawks.

Then there is “Project Robin”, in which convicted drug dealer Glenn Agliotti claimed in transcripts of a recorded conversation that he had a “mandate” to set up a major cigarette smuggling ring.

Glenn Agliotti arrives at the South Gauteng High Court in 2010. Picture: Michel Bega.

Glenn Agliotti arrives at the South Gauteng High Court in 2010. Picture: Michel Bega.

In the transcript, Agliotti allegedly boasted that: “The mandate now from the government comes from Zuma’s office. It’s already set up. Indemnity to whoever I tell them. Three-year project. Smuggle as much as you want. Khule out of Zuma’s office.”

Agliotti has denied having said anything of the sort, as has Sars spokesperson Sandile Memela.

Memela told The Citizen: “I deem it necessary to express our concern about the wild and unsubstantiated statements … For example, [that] a government-sponsored tobacco smuggling ring exists; or [that] certain investigations ‘were stopped’ or ‘led to the resignations of much of the top structure at Sars’.”

He added: “Unsubstantiated statements such as these do not warrant comment in any event.”

The substantiation about Project Robin that Memela is apparently unaware of can be found in former Sars spokesperson Adrian Lackay’s submission to the respective standing committees on finance and intelligence. He explained that the alleged idea of those they were investigating was to set up a “front company” with a “view to trade in the YES-brand together with current and former intelligence officials and informants, to be partly funded by a convicted tax evader and tobacco trader under the guise of what they termed Project Robin. Their intention was to use their access to [state intelligence] to fund part of the activities.”

Lackay is being sued by Moyane for R12 million for defamation.

Mackay, Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) head Robert McBride, Dramat and the other individuals who have been targeted through suspensions or dismissals say their suspensions, along with other disruptions at the Hawks, Ipid, Sars, crime intelligence, the SSA and the NPA are strongly related.

The persecuted close ranks

Robert McBride, suspended Ipid executive director. Picture: Michel Bega.

Robert McBride, suspended Ipid executive director. Picture: Michel Bega.

McBride, Ivan Pillay and axed Hawks boss Anwa Dramat recently joined forces to fight what they maintain are trumped-up charges against them that relate to the “case” being built against Gordhan.

“There appears to be a remarkable coincidence in the methods used to remove officials from these institutions, the players involved and their intersecting interests,” said McBride.

“In our view, attacks on individuals in these institutions are aimed at undermining the fight against corruption. A key part of all of our mandates was to investigate cases of corruption. In reviewing our individual experiences over recent weeks, we have discovered a convergence in the cases that we were working on. A common thread is that cases under investigation involved individuals or entities with questionable relationships to those in public office. Most of these cases involved state tenders of some kind that were awarded due to patronage with influential individuals in public office.”

McBride noted that during the “investigations”, affected officials were suspended and prevented from defending themselves publicly.

“They are never called to answer to any allegations by the investigators. Any representation is usually ignored, distorted or rejected by the institution in question. The investigations are open-ended and the allegations constantly change. When an ‘investigation’ fails to reach a conclusion, the institutions enter into settlements with the officials. Later, based on the same allegations that preceded the settlement, officials are then criminally charged. It appears from this pattern that the intent is to hound officials out of institutions and destroy their credibility publicly,” McBride charged.

“Throughout, the affected officials are required to bear all the costs for their legal defence, although the charges against them relate directly to the execution of their duties as state officials. The state, on the other hand, can rely on unlimited resources.”

The Hawks were asked for comment about the basis of the continued “rogue unit” investigation now that the Sunday Times had withdrawn its reports. They were also asked to comment on Van Loggerenberg’s concerns, the explosive collection of Sars documents that finger major state role players in criminal behaviour (who are not being targeted for arrest and prosecution), as well as Project Robin.

Hawks spokesperson Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi replied: “Policy dictates we don’t discuss any pending investigations, and therefore I am afraid I cannot help you in this regard.”
– amandaw@citizen.co.za

 

 

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