Pretoria - After a seven-year long trial – that included two acquittals and two accused absconding – 14 members of a syndicate that targeted the taxman were sentenced in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria on Monday.
Sentencing the group who defrauded Sars of R11 million, Judge Mahomed Ismail said it was important to hand down severe penalties to deter other people from trying similar schemes.
Eighteen syndicate members targeted job seekers in Mamelodi and Soshanguve, telling them there were employment opportunities and they needed to submit their IDs. These were then used to generate fake IRP5 forms and refunds from Sars.
The refunds were mailed to post boxes owned by the syndicate at Tramshed and Marshalltown, Joburg.
The crimes were committed between 1998 and 2005 and the 18 accused faced up to 2 265 charges including fraud, racketeering and money-laundering.
The scam was masterminded by a former Sars employee, Sydney Moyo, who was convicted of 599 fraud charges. He initially pleaded guilty to 351 counts of fraud.
Another former Sars employee, Richard Bopape, was also involved as was Moyo’s wife Nomsombuluko, who was still an employee at the time of her arrest. She was dismissed after a disciplinary hearing.
The couple have three children, the youngest 5 years old.
Last year, two of the accused – Petrus Bapela and Gugulethu Mthembu – were acquitted.
Two others – Andries Seoketso and Sello Mothogoane – absconded.
In his judgment handed down on Monday, Judge Ismail labelled the two fugitives of justice.
Before his resignation, Moyo worked as a messenger and petty cash administrator in the taxman’s pay as you earn (PAYE) department. He had full access to the IRP5 books, systems and Sars’ procedures.
The scheme ran for more than six years before Sars became suspicious that so many people used the same post office box numbers.
Only Reuben Choma repaid about R67 000 he got from the criminal activities and Judge Ismail gave him a five-year suspended sentence.
Paulus Jeli also promised to pay back R200 000 to Sars but has still to do so.
Albert Mogale, who worked for the SA Air Force, promised to pay R14 000 a month from his pension but Judge Ismail said he was unlikely to retain his job.
Judge Ismail branded Jacob Kunene the “postmaster-general of the enterprise”. This was because he had several post boxes under his name.He also recruited unemployed people for non-existent job opportunities, only to steal their IDs.
Kunene was sentenced to an effective 20 years in prison. Judge Ismail said he was intelligent and took Moyo’s plans to another level.
“He is an intelligent and cunning person who exploited the vulnerability of unemployed people who desperately sought to be employed.
“He spinned a yarn that an American motor company was to start a plant and was intending to hire South Africans. This was merely a ploy to obtain people’s IDs.”
The sentences were meant to be severe to combat organised crime, the judge said. “Sars is a custodian of the people. The money collected through revenues is intended for proper use by the state. The money is used for social grants, pensions, hospitals and the money is the citizens’ hard-earned income.
“You pulled off this scam by using desperate and vulnerable people looking for work. And you did this for greed and personal gain. “You did this in a cunning way – it was not a spur of the moment thing,” Judge Ismail said.
He ordered that the accused serve two-thirds of their sentences before being considered for parole. They have until the end of September to appeal.
Jacob Kunene – 20 years
Lucky Mthembu – 17 years
Moses Mnguni – 17 years
Sydney Moyo – 15 years
Raymond Mogale – nine years
Paulus Jeli – nine years
Jordaan Khumalo – seven years
Peter Mnisi – seven years
Albert Mogale – seven years
Maxwell Mkhonza – seven years
Nomsombuluko Moyo – six years
Dumisani Nkonyane – six years
Richard Bopape – two years
Reuben Choma – five-year suspended sentence
Petrus Bapela – acquitted
Gugulethu Mthembu – acquitted
Sello Mothogoane – wanted
Andries Seoketso – wanted