Politics

The Sars Unit: Version by People Implicated in its Establishment

In Search Of Rogue Unit Truth

1. Since about 1998 onwards, when Gordhan became SARS Commissioner, and (Ivan) Pillay and Johann Van Loggerenberg joined SARS, part of the strategy from an enforcement perspective was to go for organised criminals. I will provide a list of such cases over time. One of the effects of this was that officials began to state they were scared to work on high-risk cases. There were instances where officials were threatened, assaulted, kidnapped, shot at and their homes and cars broken into.

2. (Peter) Richer was at the National Intelligence Agency (now called the State Security Agency) in 2005 and 2006. During this time SARS and NIA entered into a Memorandum of Understanding. Discussions started for SARS to recruit and appoint officials to be transferred to NIA to work for SARS. This had been done before with the NPA where SARS recruited and paid for prosecutors and started the NPA tax units. Later the budget and people were transferred to the NPA.

3. An agreement was reached between NIA and SARS. SARS obtained approval by the Minister of Finance, Mr Trevor Manuel. The document was approved by Minister Manuel, Deputy Minister and recommended by SARS Commissioner Gordhan.

4. Approval was sought and obtained from Corporate Services SARS, Oupa Magashula. People were appointed accordingly. At this stage the “unit did not have a name.” About 12 existing SARS officials (well known people) were assigned to the unit and about 12 were appointed externally. A further 4 joined later as part of an agreement between SARS and SANDF to accept former MKVA soldiers. They were appointed in middle 2007.

5. The unit, whilst waiting to be fully trained on tax was used to work with mainly the old DSO on abalone cases, Metro police and the police drug units. They assisted in the largest abalone bust in SA history at that time.

6. NIA went through inner turmoil and withdrew from the agreement. This left SARS with a “unit” of about 28 people. Pillay sought a legal opinion on how best to use the unit. Such a legal opinion considered the National Strategic Intelligence Act and SARS Act. Van Loggerenberg was asked to engage the legal advisor and obtain such. This clearly speaks to intent of SARS to not do anything unlawful and illegal. It is dated early 2007.

7. In this period of the “unit with no name”, the manager was one Andries Janse van Rensburg. A series of tragic events occurred in this time. His one small child was playing behind a car in the driveway, when another of his small children was in the car and accidentally lifted the handbrake or put it out of gear. The child playing died as a result. It was very traumatic to him. Soon hereafter, his youngest son was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. He was hospitalised. The family had to decide whether to switch of life support machines. On the evening of doing so, his mother traveled to the hospital and was involved in an accident and died on site. This effectively traumatised Janse van Rensburg to an extent where he became erratic and difficult to manage. At this point he reported to Pillay. Van Loggerenberg was asked by Pillay to convert the unit into a fully fledged SARS unit. Van Loggerenberg found Janse van Rensburg difficult to engage and oversee. After having disciplined him once, Van Loggerenberg advised it best for SARS to let him go. His contract was paid out and he was let go.

8. Van Loggerenberg took over the unit in March 2008 together with 3 other units: National Enforcement Unit, Significant Case Management, Enforcement Communications and the unit, now named “Special Projects unit.” There were several attempts to engage NIA to go back to the arrangement but all failed. Richer joined SARS having left NIA. Further discussions occurred with SAPS Crime Intelligence to seek to place the unit there. Nothing came of their promises. This is key because neither NIA/SSA or SAPS CI can claim not having known about the unit.

9. A memorandum setting out all 4 these units’ mandates was approved in March 2008. The memo states very clearly: unit required to function within legal and policy framework of SARS. It also states the unit was to support other SARS enforcement units and law enforcement agencies.

10. This is then what the unit did. All their “projects” were reflected on a dashboard like any other of the units, and each project was either driven by income tax, VAT, Customs and Excise legislation, and very few support actions for Anti-Corruption. It also assisted external law enforcement agencies.

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