Former Sars tax agent jailed for fraud

Cape Town - A tax agent who fraudulently channelled tax refunds, meant for taxpayers, into his own bank account, was jailed for four years on Thursday.

Bernard Hendricks, 36, formerly in the employ of the South African Revenue Services, appeared in the Bellville Regional Court before magistrate Nomawethu Saba, who sentenced him on four counts of fraud.

File picture: Timothy A. Clary. Credit: AFP

She said a prison sentence, entirely suspended on condition that he repay the stolen money, as suggested by his lawyer, advocate Albert Bluhm, failed to recognise the gravity of the offences.

Besides, because Hendricks had lost his job, and was currently unemployed, he had no income with which to repay the money, she said.

She said a prison sentence, as suggested by prosecutor Wimpie Els, would send out the correct message to the community, and especially to would-be offenders with similar ideas.

She told Hendricks: “You are not employed, so I don't know how you intend to compensate the Sars for its losses.” She said Hendricks had claimed innocence to the very end, which indicated a lack of remorse. The magistrate said Hendricks had abused his position of trust and, when caught out, he had ample opportunity to “come clean”. Instead he had maintained his innocence, she said. She added: “No matter how little you earned as a tax agent, you were employed, and placed in a position of trust.”

The case arose from inquiries that Hendricks received, as a tax agent, from four tax payers who asked about their assessments for the year 2010. Hendricks noted their details, and then used a colleague's secret pin number to access the profiles of the four victims. This pin number enabled him to edit the victims' bank details, so as to channel tax refunds, amounting to R50 873, into his own bank account.