South Africa 8.4.2018 09:12 pm

‘Project Sunday Evenings’ back in the spotlight

Johann Van Loggenberg. Facebook.

Johann Van Loggenberg. Facebook.

Three former Sars officials continue to face allegations that they illegally bugged the NPA’s offices from 2007.

The spotlight falls once again on the turbulent South African Revenue Service (Sars) when Ivan Pillay (accused number 1), Andries Janse van Rensburg (accused number 2) and Johann van Loggerenberg (accused number 3) appear in the Pretoria Regional Court tomorrow.

A former Sars agent, Helgard Lombard, in 2015 reportedly admitted that he had illegally bugged the offices of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and spied on matters related to the corruption case of former police head Jackie Selebi.

In an affidavit handed to the Hawks, Lombard claimed he had only monitored and given information regarding the Selebi case, but there have been concerns there may have been leaks from or surveillance by Sars of other cases the NPA was working on.

Johan de Waal, who was allegedly part of the Sars “rogue unit” that was allegedly spying on the NPA, also submitted an affidavit detailing the operation that allegedly took place in 2007, but which possibly began in 2006, whereby senior NPA officials, including then head Vusi Pikoli, were spied on in relation to the Selebi case.

According to their affidavits, audiovisual bugging devices were secretly installed in 12 offices and boardrooms at the NPA’s Pretoria headquarters.

Pillay is accused of authorising the illegal operation in 2007.

According to the NPA, Pillay and Janse van Rensburg now remain accused of unlawfully and intentionally procuring “Helgard Lombard and/or authorise Mr Lombard to intercept communication within the offices of the Directorate of Special Operations (DSO), and those of the NPA without an interception direction signed by the designated judge…”

Pillay and Van Loggerenberg are also accused having, while being in the employ of Sars “directly or indirectly and unlawfully giving or agreeing to give Mr Lombard an unauthorised gratification to wit, cash in the form of approximately one hundred thousand rands (R100 000) to essentially perform alleged bugging”.

This alleged “Operation Sunday Evenings” surveillance has been widely highlighted in the media and thrust a now discredited KPMG report about the “rogue unit” into the public eye.

KPMG CEO Trevor Hoole together with eight colleagues resigned in the wake of fallout over the report as well as their handling of the Gupta family’s company audits.

“Given the failure to appropriately apply our own risk management and quality controls, that part of the report which refers to conclusions, recommendations and legal opinions should no longer be relied upon,” a statement released by the organisation in September said.

KPMG South Africa received R23 million from Sars to produce the flawed report. They said they would pay the money back, but there has been no report of this being done so far.

Parts of that KPMG report were used by Tom Moyane, the now suspended commissioner of Sars, to open the original docket that saw Pillay and Van Loggerenberg, along with then finance minister Pravin Gordhan, called in to give statements.

Daily Maverick reported last year that Janse van Rensburg, “along with another Sars official Helgard Lombard had installed secret cameras in selected offices and boardrooms at the NPA headquarters in Pretoria”.

“Lombard turned state witness (204) and alleged that Pillay and Van Rensburg told him to keep the R100 000 NPA bill for the surveillance equipment.

“The project was sanctioned and signed off on from the NPA’s side, but no evidence could be found that the NPA knew they had contracted Sars officials. There is also no evidence that the Sars officials were instructed by Sars management to conduct the operation.”

Bernard Hotz, attorney for the three, said in a March statement Pillay and Van Loggerenberg were not questioned on any allegations or facts about the charges when their warning statements were taken.

“On the contrary, they offered to make representations to the DPCI (the Hawks) and the NPA, which were ignored. The process of concluding the warning statements at that time was never perfected because the docket was handed over to the NPA by the DPCI before Pillay and Van Loggerenberg were given a chance to be heard,” Hotz said.

“Pillay and Van Loggerenberg are disappointed but not surprised by the latest behaviour of the NPA in this matter; as they have consistently demonstrated clear bias and malice, which appear to have been driven by the concerns of Moyane.”

Moyane was suspended in March by President Cyril Ramaphosa as the president “had lost confidence in his ability to lead Sars and offered him an opportunity to resign with immediate effect, which Mr Moyane declined”, according to a presidency statement.

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