Cape Town - The multi-million rand tax woes dogging one of the country’s most controversial businessmen are again in the news, with some of his luxury belongings set to go on auction next month as Sars moves to recover money he owes.
But Mark Lifman, who owes Sars at least R13 million, is fighting back and trying to halt the auction.
Scheduled to take place in Montague Gardens in the second week of next month.
Notices advertising the event offer a glimpse into the businessman’s lifestyle; among the items for sale are two Porsche Cayennes, computers and printers, as well as more intriguing items such as “a purple lovers’ couch”.
Lifman told Weekend Argus he would be overseas on the auction date, but his legal team would possibly try to get a court-ordered application to halt it.
They were trying to reach a settlement with Sars, he said.
Lifman said he found it strange the notice had been posted while he was still involved in legal proceedings with the revenue service.
“Before March last year I signed a caveat agreement with Sars which gave them the hold on all my property portfolio, valued at about R90m,” he said.
“Basically that said that I gave them the assurance that I wouldn’t sell anything until the matter had been resolved with Sars…
“They then came about six to eight weeks later and attached moveable assets.”
Lifman said this led to the disintegration of any good faith in the matter.
Notices advertising the auction were published online and in newspapers earlier this week. Details included that a sale in execution would be held in Montague Gardens “pursuant to a judgment in the Western Cape High Court” and related to a matter between Sars and Lifman.
Among the items to be auctioned were a white Lexus, a blue Porsche Cayenne Turbo, a black Porsche Cayenne, a money counter, a Samsung tele-vision, a solar dome oven, printers and laptops.
Furniture included two grey armchairs, the purple lovers’ couch, a dark wooden desk and nine black office chairs.
This will not be the first time Lifman’s assets have been auctioned. In May 2010 items worth about R7m, including a 1971 Rolls-Royce and a city centre building operating as a gentleman’s club, owned by Lifman and slain underworld kingpin Yuri “the Russian” Ulianitski, were auctioned off at the Mount Nelson Hotel.
Proceeds from the auction went to Lifman and to Ulianitski’s widower Irina Ulianitskaya, who had applied to the Western Cape High Court for a share of the assets.
The latest auction action involving Lifman also involves a High Court case and focuses on his tax battles.
According to a Western Cape High Court judgment from June last year, which dealt with an urgent interim interdict in terms of which Lifman was trying to suspend or set aside any judgment Sars had been granted against him, he and six of his closed corporations owed Sars about R13m.
The urgent interim interdict also sought to prevent any further Sars action against Lifman. But the application was dismissed with costs.
The judgment also hinted at other money owed to Sars by Lifman. According to Sars, his R13m debt excluded other tax debts which Sars had addressed in letters of findings following its inquiry.
The judgment said the process into this was pending.
Lifman has had several brushes with the law.
In October, Lifman and his business partner Andre Naude were acquitted of 313 charges relating to a bouncer case heard in the Cape Town Regional Court.
The two were accused of running the bouncer company Specialised Protection Services without being registered with the Private Security Regulatory Authority.
In 2009 Lifman was acquitted in the Atlantis Regional Court of having sex with underage boys.
He was also arrested four years earlier for allegedly indecently assaulting seven young boys.
At least R13m tax outstanding
A judgment in the Mark Lifman and Sars saga explains some of the tax problems he is faces.
“Pursuant to (Sars’s) statutory duty to collect revenue from the taxpayers, it… became certain that the undisputed tax debt of R13 215 062.21 is owed by (Lifman and the six closed corporations). This outstanding debt… spans over (sic) a period of some 10 years,” it said.
Dated June last year, the judgment said this debt had become apparent when Sars conducted an inquiry between May 2014 and February last year into Lifman and 35 entities under the Lifman Group.
It said Lifman represented the six other applicants in the case, as these were closed corporations of which he was sole member.
Lifman and Sars came to the agreement he would pay back the R13 million by March 31 last year.
Earlier that month, on March 3, at a meeting in Pretoria, as well as in a letter sent to him on February 5 last year, Lifman was notified that if this did not happen Sars planned to seek civil judgment against him.
The judgment said a security agreement was entered into with Sars, registering caveats on some of his properties in March last year.
Lifman failed to honour the March 31 deadline.
According to a section of the Tax Administration Act: “If a person has an outstanding tax debt, Sars may, after giving the person at least 10 business days’ notice, file with the clerk or registrar of a competent court a certified statement setting out the amount of tax payable and certified by Sars as correct.”
Lifman’s legal team argued they were not given the 10 days’ notice and, therefore, tried to obtain the urgent interdict.
But the judge in the matter found Lifman had been given adequate notice.