Controversial Cape Town businessman Mark Lifman.

Cape Town - The protracted case in which the SA Revenue Service (Sars) seeks to recover R388 million from controversial businessman Mark Lifman took another turn in the high court on Tuesday when a third party sought to intervene in the case.

Both the lawyers for Lifman and Sars refused to divulge the identity of the third party or release copies of the court papers.

Sars has been seeking, since 2015, to recover outstanding tax money, asking the court to liquidate his various businesses to recoup the money, but Lifman insists the businesses are viable and must only be placed under business rescue.

The amount is confirmed in an affidavit from senior Sars manager Keith Hendrickse and papers presented to its attorneys, MacRoberts Incorporated.

In papers, Sars maintains that the commencement of business rescue proceedings is yet another strategy in an ongoing effort by Lifman to evade settling the Lifman Group’s tax debts. His woes started when the court granted Sars an order to commence an inquiry into non-compliance for years of assessment. 

The inquiry began on May 26, 2014 and continued until June 2015.

Hendrickse, in his founding affidavit, said: “I point out that Mr Lifman and Seasons Find 764 cc failed to comply with the prescribed procedure and failed to furnish Sars with the complete set of documents pertaining to the commencement of business rescue proceedings. Sars maintains that the commencement of business rescue proceedings is yet another stratagem in an ongoing effort by Lifman to frustrate Sars in collection and recovery of the tax debts he owes to it.

“Furthermore, Mr Lifman, in conducting the financial affairs of Seasons Find 764 cc and the entities controlled by him, did so with a flagrant disregard and abuse of the separate legal personality of the entities. 

“The inquiry revealed that Mr Lifman indiscriminately transfers funds between and among himself and Seasons Find 764 cc (and the entities managed and controlled by him) without having any regard to the fact that the property, gains, debts and liabilities of the entities belonged to it and not to him. Seasons Find 764 cc is factually insolvent and the business rescue plan set up by the business rescue practitioner shows there is no reasonable prospect for rescuing.”

But Lifman, in his affidavit, denies any negligence or fraudulent intent.

“I admit that as a result of poor accounting personnel, mine and that of my group entities erred in its tax affairs. The processes I have adopted are an attempt to regularise the tax affairs and to allow a forum of tax compliance. Seasons Find 764 cc is financially distressed because it cannot pay all its creditors out of the current earnings,” Lifman said.

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Cape Argus