A prominent Western Cape man and an East Rand bogus tax practitioner who participated in a scam defrauding the South African Revenue Service of R32 million have been sentenced to a combined 26 years in prison, the agency said on Tuesday.
SARS said Cornelius Kriek pleaded guilty to 29 fraud charges, 21 money laundering charges, and one charge of corrupting a public official. He was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment in the Specialised Commercial Crime court in Johannesburg on August 21. In the Cape Town magistrate’s court on August 23, Thomas Fortuin was sentenced to six years imprisonment on 236 charges of fraud and forgery relating to the tax affairs of close corporations belonging to members of his family.
SARS said Kriek presented himself as a bookkeeper to unsuspecting value added tax (VAT) vendors, offering swift and corrective action by submitting returns on their behalf.
“Suspicion was raised by a legitimate tax practitioner who discovered that a large refund had been paid into the account of her former client within a short while after the client had switched his account to Kriek,” the revenue service said.
A former SARS employee, previously employed as a VAT auditor for 35 years, allegedly assisted Kriek to commit the fraud and will be in court on October 23.
SARS fraud investigators established that the VAT auditor enabled the fraud by releasing substantial VAT refunds after she ostensibly audited the returns submitted by Kriek on behalf of vendors. The fraudulent refunds were divided between the vendors, Kriek and the SARS employee. A total of 18 companies were involved in the VAT refund scheme, which created an actual revenue loss of just over R32.9 million.
SARS said Fortuin’s son, Tom-Ross Fortuin and the bookkeeper who assisted the family in committing crimes, Ivor Carolissen, also entered into a plea bargain with the state. They were both sentenced to four years imprisonment suspended for five years, and 18 months correctional service.
The younger Fortuin was ordered to pay SARS back the R615,592 stolen from the revenue service through the scams perpetuated by the accused.