061214: IVAN PILLAY

Johannesburg - The SA Revenue Service (Sars) has finally laid bare its case against suspended deputy commissioner Ivan Pillay, accusing him of, among a host of charges, corruption, dishonesty and contravening national security legislation.

According to the charge sheet in Pillay’s internal disciplinary hearing, which The Sunday Independent has seen, Pillay faces 10 charges which include the contravention of Sars’ recruitment policy and acting in conflict of interest.

Pillay was first suspended on December 5 last year after findings by a panel of inquiry, led by Advocate Muzi Sikhakhane, which probed allegations of a “rogue” spy unit operating under his leadership.

Sars alleges that on February 2, 2007 Pillay “sought and obtained” permission of, among others, former finance minister Trevor Manuel for Sars to establish and fund a special investigative unit within the National Intelligence Agency (NIA).

Several days later, according to Sars, the proposal was “overtaken by a decision initiated or supported by Pillay authorising the establishment’’ of another unit within Sars which was ultimately named the National Research Group (NRG).

The NRG’s first leader was Andries Janse van Rensburg, also known as “Skollie”. He was succeeded by Johann van Loggerenberg.

 

“In due course, Sars formed the view that Skollie’s appointment was misconceived and Sars, principally represented by Pillay, decided to terminate his services,” according to the charge sheet.

To ensure his silence after “Skollie” threatened to compromise the project, Pillay allegedly submitted to his demand that he be given a severance payment of R3 million.

“Following the arrest of an NRG operative on charges of rhino-horn possession, an event that prompted significant media attention, the NRG was ‘disbanded’ and replaced by a more streamlined version.”

The High Risk Investigation Unit (HRIU) was then established to ensure it could conduct its “intelligence gathering operations in complete and continuous secrecy”, according to Sars.

Throughout this period all the “covert units” fell under Pillay’s supervision and control and were obliged to heed his instructions and report to him on their activities.

These “covert and illicit means” included and entailed, among others, the following:

* The establishment and existence of units which were kept secret, so much so that the redeployed members of the NRG were led to believe by “sham and pretence” that it had been disbanded;

* Members were recruited on the basis of their experience as “undercover agents” and paid out of special Sars accounts;

* Members were expected to provide their own computer, telephonic and electronic equipment in breach of Sars regulations;

* The identity of unit members was kept secret to preserve their “secret status”.

n They were also encouraged to develop opportunistic relationships with informants and suspects;

* They were kept in the dark on the outcomes and effect of their investigations; and

* At least during the time of the NRG, members were given false Sars identity documents and provided with surveillance equipment.

 

There was also equipment to track vehicles. Sars alleges they bugged conversations, tapped telephones and cellphones.

Sars argues, because of the covert nature of the units, that information obtained was compromised and thus inadmissible in court.

 

Pillay said the conditions of his suspension did not allow him to comment. His hearing is scheduled to commence on February 26.

Independent Media