Three former Sars officials who are due to appear in court on corruption charges have sent a lawyer’s letter to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) demanding the immediate withdrawal of summonses against them pending the consideration of their representations to have the charges dropped.
On Friday, summonses were served on Johan van Loggerenberg, Ivan Pillay and Andries van Rensburg to appear in the Pretoria Regional Court on 9 April in connection with charges under the Combating of Corrupt Activities Act.
The charges reportedly relate to a so-called rogue unit within Sars which was allegedly established to spy on the NPA, which at the time was prosecuting former Police Commissioner Jackie Selebi and an alleged R100 000 payment made to “whistleblower” Hendrick Lombard.
The trio’s lawyers, Werksmans Attorneys, yesterday sent a letter to National Prosecutions Director Shaun Abrahams and the head of the Priority Crimes Litigation Unit Torie Pretorius, setting out their client’s views of the charges, which they said related to “a plethora of false and defamatory media reports” in 2014 and 2015 emanating from Sars and former Sars and intelligence officials.
They said the reports sought to falsely implicate them in a long list of very serious allegations, which they have “consistently and vehemently” denied.
All three of them stated that they had repeatedly offered their full and complete willingness to cooperate and assist the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (Hawks) and the NPA in the matter, but said nothing ever came of it.
Van Loggerenberg and Pillay said they were at the Hawks’ offices in August 2016 to hear the allegations against them, where they were supplied with a list of questions to which they would be given time to respond.
They claimed that, instead of giving them time to respond, the Hawks then went ahead and handed the case docket to the NPA, of which they only learnt in the media the following weekend.
The three said no warning statement had been obtained from them prior to the decision to prosecute them, despite the fact that it was a procedural prerequisite in a matter such as this to afford the accused an opportunity to provide representations or a warning statement prior to appearing in court for the first time.
They said they had every reason to believe the decision to prosecute them ought to be reconsidered and asked for the immediate withdrawal of the summonses pending the outcome of their representations.
Pillay alleged he was the victim of a conspiracy between former and current Sars employees and other persons from as far back as 2009 “to destabilise, disorganise and ultimately create havoc and damage to the reputations and stability” of himself, Van Loggerenberg and Sars as a state institution.
He claimed Sars Commissioner Tom Moyane, who was the complainant in the case, had at least three such reports and other relevant documents in his possession, to which he and Van Loggerenberg were denied access.