Pretoria - One of the most complex tax fraud trials the SA Revenue Service (Sars) ever had to deal was concluded on Monday, when the leaders of a crime syndicate were sentenced to between 20 and 15 years' imprisonment.
The syndicate, which included three Sars employees, attempted to defraud Sars by close to R30 million over a period of seven years, with the fiscus suffering an actual loss of about R11 million.
The trial dates back to a series of arrests in 2007 and involved over 2265 charges of tax fraud and charges under the Prevention of Organised Crime Act.
The syndicate had offered jobs to desperate unemployed people in Mamelodi and Soshanguve in return for copies of their identity documents. The details were then used to register them for tax.
False IRP5 certificates were produced indicating that their “employers” had deducted too much tax on their salaries.
This resulted in fraudulent tax refunds being paid out and eventually landing up in the pockets of syndicate members.
Three former Sars officials were involved in the scheme.
The “founding father” of the scheme, Sydney Moyo, and Richard Bopape resigned. Moyo's wife Nomsombuko - who still maintains her innocence - was dismissed after a disciplinary hearing.
The scheme was discovered after seven years when Sars became suspicious because so many taxpayers used the same addresses.
Sentencing the 14 accused in the High Court in Pretoria Judge Mahomed Ismail said the group had embarked on a mission to defraud Sars and used vulnerable and desperate people as pawns in the process.
The crimes they committed over a period of seven years were cunning and well planned and their sole motivation had been greed.
He said Sars was the custodian of the people and responsible for the financial well-being of the country and its citizens.
Monies were collected from the hard-earned income of citizens and were used for all to pay for everything from schools, hospitals and roads to pensions and social grants.
He said the accused seemed to labour under the belief that they could defraud Sars and then simply offer to pay back what they had taken. Only one of them had actually repaid Sars.
The 14 accused were sentenced to a total of 279 years' imprisonment, but many of the sentences are to run concurrently.
One accused, Reuben Choma, was given a suspended sentenced after paying back his ill-gotten gains to Sars.
Sydney Moyo was sentenced to an effective 15 years' imprisonment and his wife to six years' imprisonment.
Bopape, who was not one of the main figures in the scheme, despite working for Sars, was sentenced to two years' imprisonment.
The syndicate's most “successful” member, Jacob Kunene, who defrauded Sars by some R7 million, was sentenced to 20 years' imprisonment.
Computer shop owner Lucky Mthembu and Moses Mnguni - who also defrauded Sars of several million - were sentenced to 17 years' imprisonment each.
Raymond Mogale and Paulus Jeli were sentenced to nine years' imprisonment, Maxwell Mkhonza, Jordaan Khumalo, Peter Mnisi and SA Air Force instructor Albert Morale to seven years' imprisonment and Dumisani Nkonyane to six years' imprisonment.
Two of the initial 18 accused, Petrus Bapela and Gugulethu Mthembu, were acquitted on all charges.
One of the alleged kingpins, Andries Seoketso, and a Sello Mothongwane are still being sought by the police.