Two former South African Revenue Service (Sars) customs auditors were sentenced to three years direct imprisonment for corruption in Durban last week, May 9 2019.
Narrating events leading up to their jailing and prosecution, SARS spokesperson Sandile Memela on Tuesday said: “Pranesh Maharaj from La Mercy and Reuben Moodley from Newlands West were both caught red-handed with a cash bribe of R100,000 in a brown paper envelope in their pockets in a police operation in March 2018.”
Mamela said both auditors acknowledged that they had issued a notice to a well-known KwaZulu-Natal businessman in February 2018, advising him of an imminent audit of companies where he was a director.
During a follow-up meeting, the auditors solicited a bribe of R200,000 from him “to make his tax problems disappear”.
“Later the same day, Maharaj contacted the businessman, asking for an advance payment of R10,000, which was duly paid. Maharaj did not inform Moodley of this arrangement, nor shared the money with him,” said Mamela.
The businessman, however, reported the matter to the police.
“A decision was taken to set up a police trap in terms of section 252A of the Criminal Procedures Act. The businessman provided the cash, which was divided into two envelopes, each containing R100,000,” recounted Mamela.
“The police pounced on the accused as they were walking away, after the businessman handed them the envelopes in the parking lot of the Standard Bank, Kingsmead Branch on 2 March 2018, as was arranged between them.”
The Durban Regional Court also sentenced the two auditors an additional two years imprisonment, conditionally suspended for five years. Maharaj offered to repay the R10,000 that was paid to him by the taxpayer.
Both employees resigned during a Sars disciplinary process in August 2018.
New Sars Commissioner Edward Kieswetter welcomed the sentence, adding that there was no place for dishonest employees at Sars.
“We have a zero tolerance for dishonesty and unlawfulness. As we forge ahead on a path of restoring a culture of integrity and service excellence in our institution, we would like to assure citizens that SARS will take harsh measures against employees who betray the public trust,” said Kieswetter, who took over the reins at Sars at the beginning of May.
– African News Agency