'Tax authority probe has cost me my career'
In a ground-breaking new book, Johann van Loggerenberg, with Adrian Lackay, reveals what really happened at Sars and shows how the public was deceived. Here is an excerpt:
By January 2015, two things had become clear to me – I was no longer wanted at Sars and saw no evidence that the tax authority deemed it necessary to defend itself against the onslaught of Sunday Times articles.
I had been served with the most bizarre internal charge sheet.
I had also lodged nine complaints with the Press Ombudsman against the Sunday Times (who published several reports on Van Loggerenberg and the so-called rogue unit).
By then the “rogue unit” label seemed to have become standard currency and was commonly used by other media institutions.
In the meantime, my health was suffering and I had lost more than 10kg.
I could no longer afford to pay for the place where my mother was staying and had to find a smaller house for her.
It also concerned me greatly that she developed a heart condition during that time.
I wanted to go public with all the information I had and decided to seek the advice of Toby,* a senior State Security Agency representative who had approached me in June 2014 on behalf of the agency and tried to help me dispel the notion with senior government officials that there was a rogue unit.
I explained to Toby how ludicrous the charges against me were.
Sars had effectively accused me of not having disclosed precisely the criminal offences that implicated Pretoria-based attorney Belinda Walter (with whom Van Loggerenberg was in a short relationship) and officials of the Illicit-Tobacco Task Team.
These were the very offences I had pointed out long before, first to Sars, then to the Kanyane and Sikhakhane panels (of investigation, into the “rogue unit”).
However, if I challenged the disciplinary allegations, it would force me to rely on the content of the data on the phones I had been given and on the data cloud, as well as the recordings and correspondence given to me by Walter.
I told Toby that this would have the unintended consequence of also exposing other aspects concerning the state not relevant to my matter.
He then advised me against doing so, warning of the possible harmful effects should this information be made public.
The matter had already been attracting significant media attention and no doubt my disciplinary would too.
Toby felt the country couldn’t afford more scandals and further destabilisation of state institutions.
The only option left to me, therefore, was to leave Sars in an effort to bring matters to a close. I resigned from Sars on February 4, 2015.
I wrote a confidential letter of resignation addressed only to commissioner Tom Moyane.
In it, I also offered to help Sars refute the Sunday Times articles and to help in any future legal cases where Sars may require my assistance.
Moyane wanted me to amend aspects of my resignation letter, which I complied with.
Curiously, I was asked to retract my offer to help Sars refute the Sunday Times articles. Furthermore, a condition of my resignation was that I withdraw my Press Ombudsman complaints against the Sunday Times.
And then, just before my resignation, I finally got to meet Moyane – on four occasions, in fact.
I have been told he had sacrificed much of his life for our political freedom and had lived in exile in Mozambique.
Moyane is well-spoken, charming and seemed quite willing to hear me out.
I shall reserve my views of him because I never got to know him well or to work for him.
At our last meeting, my last day as a Sars official, he asked someone to take a photo of the two of us together in his office, both smiling at the camera.
We shook hands and I wished him well in his future endeavours as the head of Sars.
That very Sunday, details of my confidential separation agreement ended up in the hands of the media.
Piet Rampedi of the Sunday Times would later claim victory on social media and when he addressed a forum of journalists at a meeting in Botswana, because I had withdrawn my complaints to the Press Ombudsman.
The truth is, although I believed my complaints had merit (and this would be confirmed by the Ombudsman later that year), by February 2015 I had reached breaking point.
I didn’t have the stomach for any more litigation and just wanted to move on with my life.
I left Sars and I believed that would bring an end to the saga for all concerned, including Ivan Pillay and Peter Richer.
More resignations followed in quick succession after I had been suspended in November the previous year and after I resigned.
The former Sars chief operating officer, Barry Hore, served his notice in December 2014. It was reported that he was to face disciplinary charges for alleged racism.
Earlier that year, Hore had apparently asked a colleague, who happened to be black, to make coffee for the director-general of another state department during a formal meeting.
Jerome Frey, head of modernisation and strategy, and Jacques Meyer, head of the case selection division, also resigned in December 2014.
ACAS head Clifford Collings left Sars in December 2014. For some reason, Lebelo told City Press that Collings had approached his employers about early retirement “for personal reasons” and his application was approved. At this stage Ivan and Richer were still suspended.
Adrian Lackay also resigned in February 2015.
His resignation is still the subject of a CCMA constructive-dismissal case that has been dragging on ever since.
Other resignations were to follow.
At the age of 46, I had to start my life all over again. After my resignation, I started looking for work.
Soon after, I received confirmation from the attorneys for Sars that all actions against me had been withdrawn.
I thought that would be the end of this chapter in my life.
One of the options I had considered was to start work as an article clerk, in the hope of eventually qualifying as an attorney and to build my professional career from scratch again.
A number of law firms were interested, but they all told me more or less that until the dust had settled around me on the Sars matters, they would not be able to take me on.
The problem was, the dust didn’t want to settle.
* Not his real name.
About the book
The story of a "rogue unit" operating within the South African Revenue Service (Sars) became entrenched in the public mind after a succession of sensational reports published by the Sunday Times in 2014.
The unit, the reports claimed, had carried out a series of illegal spook operations: they had spied on President Zuma, run a brothel, illegally bought spy ware and entered into unlawful tax settlements.
In a plot of Machiavellian proportions, head of the elite crime-busting unit, Johann van Loggerenberg and many of Sars’s top management were forced to resign.
Van Loggerenberg’s select team of investigators, with their impeccable track record of busting high-level financial fraudsters and nailing tax criminals, lost not only their careers, but also their reputations.
Now they finally get to put the record straight and the rumours to rest: there was no "rogue unit".
The public had been deceived, seemingly by powers conspiring to capture Sars for their own ends.
Shooting down the allegations he has faced one by one, Van Loggerenberg tells the story of what really happened inside Sars, revealing details of some of the unit’s actual investigations.
* JOHANN VAN LOGGERENBERG was a group executive at Sars before he resigned from the tax authority early last year after 16 years’ service.
His name featured publicly for his involvement in Sars investigations into individuals such as Billy Rautenbach, Irvin Khoza, Julius Malema, Lolly Jackson, Glenn Agliotti and Radovan Krejcir.
He currently consults for law firms and private forensic investigation companies.
* ADRIAN LACKAY is a former spokesman for Sars. Before he started at the tax authority in 2003, he worked as a journalist and political correspondent.