The 18-year-old, R264 million case against “Highway Hennie” Delport for allegedly claiming false VAT and excise duties from Sars resumes in the High Court in Pretoria today.
Delport has cited collusion between the South African Revenue Service (Sars) and British American Tobacco (BAT) to shut him down.
Following a 2000 audit, Sars accused Delport of being part of a syndicate which purported to have exported locally manufactured cigarettes which it covered by providing bogus export paperwork except, Sars claimed, the cigarettes never left SA.
In 2007, Sars obtained a R300 million asset forfeiture court order against Delport and the other members of the alleged syndicate.
“We have documents of a meeting attended by Sars and BAT officials where a resolution was taken to shut my companies down,” Delport claimed.
The documents form part of the court exhibits.
In trying to get verification of the nature of the charges from Sars, the response was that Sars was prohibited from discussing taxpayer affairs.
“Please see section 69 of chapter 6 of the Tax Administration Act, 2011,” an anonymous person at Sars media desk said.
Follow-up questions were sent to Sars, which did not respond.
Dated November 1, 2000, the first document appears to be minutes of a meeting between Sars and BATSA representatives at Sars’ request following two previous requests for information. The minutes appear to detail that Sars gave invoices and other information about Delport’s tobacco and transport companies to BATSA.
But the reason for the request is not detailed.
It appeared that BATSA, if not investigating Delport himself, was at the very least keeping an eye on Apollo Tobacco CC, Delport’s cigarette company, and had requested information on his transport company, Fireworks Transport, which Sars seems to have handed over.
On November 20, 2000 Sars and BATSA met again and the minutes of the meeting seem to show that Sars provided details of the investigation into Apollo, sharing statements from companies supplied by Apollo.
In the meeting, Sars representatives told BATSA Delport had admitted he exported cigarettes obtained from BATSA to Malawi and was paid in rands that he supposedly brought back to SA.
“This confession, unfortunately, is not in writing,” the BATSA memo noted.
It went on to state that BATSA had requested affidavits from Sars which implicated “Apollo Tobacco on illegal ‘exports’ of tobacco products (sic)” and a written admission from Apollo that they ‘export’ cigarettes to Malawi and/ or other countries.
“I clarified to them that only when we have received one or both of the requests and are given the go-head by Sars to utilise the information can we be in a position to review the possibility of a contractual breech and violation by Apollo Tobacco, which might lead to termination thereof by BATSA,” the memo stated.
This is the section Delport believed was evidence of collusion between Sars and BATSA.
At this time Delport was using his airline to ferry cigarettes for BATSA under contract, and it was going well until he began manufacturing his own cigarettes, which BATSA took exception to. This seemed to be because Delport’s packaging was similar to a BATSA brand.
“Our credibility in the market is being seriously tested,” BATSA wrote in a 2001 memo.
BATSA has not yet replied to request for comment.