SARS rogue unit: 'Pravin Gordhan was definitely aware of it'

Advocate Belinda Walter - now well-known as the woman who initially brought allegations of the South African Revenue Service (SARS)'s rogue unit and laid a complaint against the parastal's group executive Johann van Loggerenberg after their relationship ended in May last year - has hit with another bomb.

Initially denied by SARS some time ago, the rogue unit in question was said to have been involved in a series of illegal transactions.

A panel set up and headed by Advocate Muzi Sikhakhane to investigate the matter found prima facie evidence (sufficient evidence, as it's presented) that SARS' rogue unit spied on taxpayers it was investigating, including some it had cut deals with. The result is that all deals reached in the past 10 years could be up for review, with potentially damaging consequences for SARS.

Read more on SARS' rogue unit and it's links to the State Security Agency here.

Walter claims that then head of SARS Pravin Gordhan knew of this unit's existence, further stating reasons for her exposure of it:

I laid a complaint against Loggerenberg at the end of May and more people from SARS added to this. What I became aware of during the relationship (with Loggerenberg) is that my own communication had been intercepted by SARS for 3 years and there was a specific agenda he had in mind. I did have a historic relationship with the SSA (State Security Agency), but not at the time. (The unit) was a very small element within SARS and it was hidden within SARS; they didn't operate within SARS offices and 90% of SARS employees weren't aware of it. I can not speak about Trevor Manuel; in documents I have said that Pravin Gordhan was definitely aware of it.

SARS' response meanwhile isn't to deny the unit's existence, but to note that neither the Minister at the time Trevor Manuel, nor Pravin Gordhan (who was SARS head at a point, later becoming Finance Minister) and nor the last head of SARS Oupa Magashula were notified of the unit's existence or included in the investigation. SARS Employee Relations Executive Luther Lebelo says this is the approach SARS has taken, despite this allegations dating as far back as 2009:

We didn't raise it with any of them, but the allegations raised are not without substance. But why should I speak to them, to do what? They are not part of the allegations. The Sikhakhane Report doesn't say that the Ministers and Mr Magashula did anything wrong. They are saying that the unit that was established by Mr Pillay (suspend SARS Deputy Commissioner, Ivan Pillay) in 2007 ran a rogue unit, a covert unit. The people that were in there were recruited without following SARS procedure, therefore that is the investigation that we are busy with.

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