Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan on Thursday said, if true, the reported manhandling of a Sars official by the Hawks as they tried to obtain evidence to use against him in court was totally unacceptable.
“If it is true, it is totally unacceptable behaviour,” Gordhan told a joint meeting of parliament’s select and standing committees on finance and appropriations.
The minister was asked by Democratic Alliance (DA) finance spokesperson David Maynier for his views on reports that senior revenue service official Vlok Symington was detained against his will by members of the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (Hawks) and the bodyguard of Sars commissioner Tom Moyane recently in an attempt to retrieve a document.
At issue was reportedly a copy of an email from a Sars lawyer informing Moyane that he could not heed a request by the National Prosecuting Authority to obtain answers from Symington relating to a matter on which Gordhan faces fraud charges, as he disagreed with their pursuit of the minister.
The compromising email was mistakenly forwarded to several persons.
Gordhan said he had heard “whispers” about what happened and would confront Moyane about it.
“I heard whispers about it. I will ask Mr Moyane for an explanation as soon as I get a chance,” he said.
“Let’s first get the facts and then take it from there.”
The Hawks and the NPA have brought fraud charges against Gordhan, and he is due in court next week to answer to these. He is being charged in connection with the decision to grant former Sars deputy commissioner Ivan Pillay early retirement with full benefits.
The Mail & Guardian reported that Symington was questioned by the Hawks about his stated legal opinion that there was nothing that prevented Sars from releasing Pillay with full benefits before the age of 60 and rehiring him on a contract basis.
Meanwhile, an affidavit filed to the Pretoria High Court on Wednesday by two constitutional rights groups that are challenging the decision to charge the finance minister suggests that in the last week the Hawks have redoubled their efforts to find evidence against Gordhan.
Francis Antonie, the director of the Helen Suzman Foundation, filed the supplementary affidavit, along with a subpoena served on CEO of the Government Pensions Administration Agency Krishen Sukdev last Thursday.
Sukdev was instructed to provide copies of documents submitted relating to the early retirement of Pillay as well as an affidavit explaining the approval of requests from 3 000 other government employees to retire before the age of 60.
It also demands proof that Gordhan was responsible for such approval in five cases.
Antonie said the subpoena showed that the NPA rushed to charge Gordhan without having sufficient evidence and was belatedly trying to build a case.
“The subpoena is an indictment of the investigative and prosecutorial process,” he argued in the submission.
“It is also clear that the NPA … had never completed sufficient investigations nor had sufficient evidence to take the formidable decision to prefer charges against Minister Gordhan.”
– African News Agency