The Nugent commission of inquiry into tax administration and governance has heard how a task team — ostensibly established to investigate syndicates in the illicit tobacco trade — instead focused its powers on internal investigations on fellow South African Revenue Service (SARS) officials.
This is according to testimony by a senior member of Sars’ fraud investigations unit — formerly its anti-corruption unit — who asked commissioner and retired judge Robert Nugent not to be identified due to the sensitive nature of her work involving criminal inquiries.
Witness X testified on Wednesday that the task team used “the umbrella of cigarette smuggling syndicates as their mandate to investigate” internal employees.
“If you go into any of those cases none of them deal with their suspects being a part of big syndicated and cigarette smuggling. In fact a lot of them had to do with behavioural issues [of Sars employees],” said Witness X.
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It is not clear when exactly the task team was set up, but is understood to be during the course of 2016.
In an investigation that cost taxpayers R3-million, Sars’ acting senior manager of fraud investigations Yousuf Denath was one of the officials who was targeted by the task team after he was accused of colluding with British American Tobacco and undermining Amalgamated Tobacco Manufacturing’s Yusuf Kajee and his associate Edward Zuma, the eldest son of former president Jacob Zuma.
Denath told the commission how he was placed on suspension for one year and three months over allegations that were found on Twitter.
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