National Director of Public Prosecutions Shamila Batohi’s decision to withdraw charges against three former senior South African Revenue Service officials has sparked a national row and could face court action in the 10-year long saga which brought SARS to its knees.
Chair of Freedom Under Law judge Johann Kriegler said in a statement that the withdrawal of the charges meant “bad news for the Moyane moles left lurking in SARS, and for their embattled ally, the Public Protector”.
“It is no doubt also a grave disappointment for certain resourceful politicians, one-eyed conspiracy theorists, media gossips and other “useful idiots” of the state capture brigade,” Kriegler said.
“Sadly, however, they’re unlikely to be deterred by facts.”
NPA spokesperson Bulelwa Makeke said on Friday night following the defence’s representations that Batohi appointed a review panel to consider the matter and to provide her with an opinion and recommendations.
“The panel comprised Director of Public Prosecutions Barry Madolo, Acting Director of Public Prosecutions advocate Indra Goberdan and Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions advocate Adrian Mopp,” Makeke said.
“In line with the above, the NDPP has carefully considered the panel’s report, the evidence and other relevant material, and held discussions with the panel. The NDPP agrees with the panel that there are no reasonable prospects of a successful prosecution in this matter.”
The charges against all the accused will be withdrawn at their next appearance in court.
EFF leader Julius Malema said yesterday it was “increasingly clear that the new NDPP works for the Pravin Gordhan faction and was appointed precisely to block this rogue unit case and any other case seeking to hold him accountable.”
“The rogue unit culprits must have their day in court and answer for their crimes in front of an independent and sober judge.”
Malema said the EFF was going to challenge the decision.
“It was already in court, and they pleaded. So, lets demand a sober, neutral, judge hear the matter. Not a deployee of Pravin Gordhan,” Malema said in a swipe at Batohi.
And it was only a matter of time before the veracity of the Public Protector’s findings into the so-called SARS rogue unit became clear since charges against the unit were dropped, DA shadow minister of Justice and Correctional Services Glynnis Breytenbach told The Citizen yesterday.
Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane had recommended last year that President Cyril Ramaphosa discipline Gordhan as her investigations found that the unit was established illegally.
Gordhan had challenged the findings before the North Gauteng High Court. The court granted an interdict to suspend the remedial action while an application to review and set aside the report was still to be heard.
Mkhwebane and EFF had since applied for an appeal on the high court’s ruling.
“[It] will come to the fore. I think the picture will become clear as to how many cases were driven by certain elements to capture the NPA.”
“[The withdrawal of the charges] speaks for itself. Those people who have promoted this matter and other similar matters in the criminal courts need to do an introspection. This is not a game to destroy people’s and their family’s lives.”
She applauded Batohi for her courageous decision.
“This is how a prosecuting authority must go about its business … Shamila Batohi has made not only the correct decision, but a courageous one. It indicates a NPA getting back on the tracks of the rule
The trio was accused of establishing an illegal unit within SARS to spy on taxpayers, including the Scorpions in 2007. At the time, Public Enterprise Minister Pravin Gordhan was SARS commissioner.