An ally of Julius Malema is trying to prevent the taxman from probing businesses and companies indirectly linked to the expelled ANC Youth League leader.
Sars is unravelling the tax affairs of Lesiba Gwangwa’s business entities, which are central to the web of tender investigations in Limpopo.
But on Tuesday, the Polokwane businessman will ask the High Court in Pretoria to stop the revenue service from resuming a judicial inquiry into his tax affairs.
Gwangwa says before he can testify, he needs to get access to documents and transcripts that may be used against him in the inquiry. He also wants the court to rule on a separate application to review certain processes related to the inquiry.
In this review, he is asking that the inquiry’s presiding officer, advocate Piet Marais SC, recuse himself. Gwangwa believes Marais is biased against him because he is one of Sars’s service providers. Marais dismissed Gwangwa’s initial application to recuse himself. Gwangwa claims in court papers that Marais subsequently excluded him from listening to the testimony of his former auditor, Seraj Ravat, and refused his legal team access to the transcripts.
Ravat had asked to testify in camera, citing safety concerns after receiving a threatening phone call.
slammed Gwangwa’s motion as a “frivolous application” and an attempt to frustrate its investigations.
Pieter Engelbrecht, a senior Sars manager, contends that Gwangwa cannot get a copy of Ravat’s transcripts because the latter would not have “freely” testified.
The revenue service is also not prepared to give him the documents relating to its investigation because, “the possibility exists that books, documents, things and/or information may be destroyed and/or altered should the taxpayer be provided with the information at Sars’s disposal prior to the investigation being finalised”.
Sars also argued that providing such information could create an opportunity for suspects to tailor their evidence and possibly collude with other witnesses.
Engelbrecht said the fact that the inquiry had been granted, proved “reasonable grounds that [Gwangwa] had failed to comply with their obligations and committed certain offences”.
Aside from probing Gwangwa’s personal finances, the inquiry is examining the financial transactions of his family Trust and those of at least 18 other entities linked to him, including On Point Engineering and SGL Engineering Projects. Malema was a director of SGL Engineering in 2009.
Among the list of documents Gwangwa was asked to provide, were share registers and bank statements of each entity’s accounts.
Sars has accused Gwangwa of failing to provide some of the requested documents. It was crucial that Gwangwa should testify to explain why he had failed to provide the documents, Engelbrecht said.
Ravat and other witnesses had provided “vital information” thus far, Engelbrecht said.
Gwangwa was subpoenaed in March, along with scores of other businessmen and Limpopo officials indirectly linked to Malema, to appear before the inquiry into suspected tax evasion.
Another Limpopo businessman subpoenaed is Johan Beukes, who allegedly received lucrative construction projects and allegedly made “donations” to the ANC Youth League in the province.
Beukes also tried to interdict Sars from hauling him before the inquiry. But the court dismissed Beukes’s 11th-hour application.
Yesterday Gwangwa declined to comment on his pending application.
Malema, too, refused to comment saying that The Sunday Independent was “undermining” him by asking him to comment on the finances of another man.
Sars spokesman Adrian Lackay denied that the revenue service had acted in a biased way.
“Presiding officers of such inquiries are selected from a panel of suitably qualified advocates and lawyers published by the Government Gazette, based on their availability,” Lackay said.
Ravat could not be reached for comment. - Sunday Independent