Inside the Sars rogue units

By Shanti Aboobaker and Wally Mbhele Time of article published Feb 22, 2015

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The lovers’ tiff that led to spilling of beans

The love affair between Johannes van Loggerenberg and Belinda Walter ran into trouble on January 31, after they attended a cycle rally hosted by Van Loggerenberg’s charity, Wachizungu.

Present at the rally was one of Van Loggerenberg’s former girlfriends, Ms Wilson, an analyst in the evidence management and technical support unit at the South African Revenue Service.

At a social gathering after the rally, Van Loggerenberg and Walter quarrelled about “certain personal messages” Walter had found on Van Loggerenberg’s cellphone. Also present during the quarrel were Wilson and two other friends of Van Loggerenberg, Erich Neethling and Lindi Kotze.

Angry, Walter sought the next day to “wreak the vengeance of a spurned lover” when she met representatives of tobacco manufacturers Carnilinx in Norwood, Joburg. She divulged information pertaining to her work as an informer for the State Security Agency and British American Tobacco UK and to her relationship with Van Loggerenberg.

Later that day Walter repeated her allegations in a second meeting, held at the Sandton chambers of N Cassim, SC.

What was said in those meetings, according to the Sikhakhane panel, “provided the fuel that would spark a break-up of the relationship between Walter and Van Loggerenberg”.

On February 2, the couple kissed and made up. Walter’s revelations were “forgotten and forgiven”, the panel said in its report.

“To assure and appease Van Loggerenberg, Walter sent an e-mail to all participants of the previous day’s meetings retracting all allegations made.”

Van Loggerenberg made a rushed effort to disclose his relationship with Walter to his employer, Sars.

On February 4, Von Loggerenberg again logged a disclosure of the love affair on the Sars IT system.

The relationship ended on May 27.

“The fuel that revealed itself for the first time on February 1, 2014 was ignited”, starting a media fire that engulfed Sars for the better part of the year.


How the drama played out:

July 12, 2013: Then-Sars Commissioner Oupa Magashula resigns under a cloud after an investigation led by retired Justice Zak Yacoob.

Justice Yacoob found Magashula had placed the reputation and credibility of Sars at risk through his relationship with convicted drug dealer Timmy Marimuthu.

September 2, 2013: Johann van Loggerenberg meets Belinda Walter for an informal discussion at his Sars office.

October 22, 2013: Walter receives a letter in which Sars threatens to withdraw the licence of one of her clients, tobacco company Carnilinx, based on an incident in Muldersdrift. During the afternoon Walter and Van Loggerenberg flirt on WhatsApp. Walter apologises for the delay in submitting the letter on behalf of the Fair Trade Independent Tobacco Association, which she chairs.

October 25, 2013: Walter and Van Loggerenberg meet for a date at a restaurant in Faerie Glen, Pretoria. That night they begin an intimate relationship. Van Loggerenberg allegedly tells Walter about his covert role in an apartheid-era project he says was called the Republican Spy Programme and says his number was RS536.

October 26, 2013: Walter and Loggerenberg spend a romantic weekend together.

October 27, 2013: They have Sunday lunch at Papa’s restaurant in Hatfield. Walter tells Adriano Mazzotti, who runs tobacco company Carnilinx, about the couple’s dates. Van Loggerenberg is supposedly aware of Mazzotti and Walter’s correspondence.

November 14, 2013: Van Loggerenberg sends a letter, on behalf of Sars, to Francois van der Merwe, chief executive of the Tobacco Institute of South Africa, and its chairwoman, who is Walter. In the letter he discusses Sars policy on tax compliance by the tobacco industry.

November 16, 2013: Walter sends Sars employee, Lizette Kriel, an e-mail headed ”Termination of Mandate – Carnilinx (Pty) Limited” and saying that for “personal reasons” she is no longer acting for the company.

January 31, 2013: Walter continues to communicate with Carnilinx. She discloses certain information to the company and to members of the media.

February 3, 2014: Walter tells Van Loggerenberg that she has withdrawn as Carnilinx’s attorney.

July 4, 2014: Walter complains to Sars, making several allegations against Van Loggerenberg’s investigating unit.

She says she has communicated with Mazzotti. She alleges that throughout the weekend spent with Van Loggerenberg, he was aware of her correspondence with Mazzotti.

September 23, 2014: The Presidency announces the appointment of Tom Moyane as Sars commissioner. Moyane thanks the president and Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene, and says he will take forward all priority development programmes and policies. President Jacob Zuma wishes Moyane well in his new role.

October 12, 2014: Allegations are splashed in the media about illegal activities by a covert Sars unit.

December 5, 2014: Moyane suspends Deputy Commissioner Ivan Pillay and the group executive for strategic planning and risk, Peter Richer.

Moyane refers the findings of the Sikhakhane panel to the inspector-general of intelligence.

He disbands the covert unit and announces a forensic investigation to ensure that the alleged unit ceases to exist.

Pillay is reinstated by order of the Labour Court.

January 7, 2015: Pillay is suspended again by Sars.

January 20, 2015: Sars confirms that Pillay’s December suspension has been “resolved” at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration. No party is allowed to publicly disclose the details.

February 4, 2015: Van Loggerenberg resigns in terms of an “amicable” agreement with Sars.


Puppet master Van Loggerenberg

The man behind the South African Revenue Service (Sars) spy scandal, Johannes Hendrikus van Loggerenberg, was himself an apartheid spy.

This revelation is among the findings made by advocate Muzi Sikhakhane in his investigation into allegations that Sars established a covert intelligence unit that engaged in surveillance and unlawful interception of conversations, unlawfully revealed taxpayers’ information and traced vehicles.

Van Loggerenberg, according to Sikhakhane’s report, describes himself as having been “an undercover agent of the South African Police during apartheid South Africa”.

He told the Sikhakhane panel that before joining Sars he was a member of what he said had been called the “Republican Spy Programme”, which he said had been used in a political context.

Van Loggerenberg told the panel, however, that he focused more on criminal investigations.

Another witness said the spy programme or “Republican Security” was one of apartheid South Africa’s most effective operations “to infiltrate… liberation movements… It recruited from universities and institutions of learning, targeting what the apartheid security apparatus saw as bright stars who could be trained to operate undercover in the unique political environments of liberation movements.”

Van Loggerenberg told the Sikhakhane panel he was one of the few deployed to work in organised crime rather than the political arena.

The report notes that his name appears nowhere in the records as having been a police official during the apartheid era.

He said, however, that he investigated organised crime and worked mainly in Durban, although he was also involved in projects in Europe and South America.

It appears these investigative skills might have helped establish a “trusting relationship with some officials of the democratic South Africa”. One such official is Sars Deputy Commissioner Ivan Pillay, who has been suspended.

Van Loggerenberg said that when he was withdrawn from the field, he was seconded to the National Intelligence Agency to assist with specific investigations and worked there until he was approached by the SA Secret Service.

It was during his time at the secret service that he met Pillay, who introduced him to then-Commissioner Pravin Gordhan, who is now minister of co-operative government and traditional affairs.

According to the report, Van Loggerenberg testified that Gordhan had told him that he sought to develop an intelligence capacity in Sars “within the context of tax and customs”.

The Sunday Independent could not establish if Gordhan knew of Loggerenberg’s apartheid past. It is also not known whether Pillay was aware of it.

What is known, however, is that this is how Loggerenberg joined Sars where, for the past 16 years, he worked in a number of capacities.

He was employed as Sars group executive for projects, evidence management and technical support. The report notes that he sometimes spelled his surname incorrectly, even in formal documents. He explained that this was because his name had been misspelt in composing his e-mail address.

Van Loggerenberg had romantic involvements with a number of colleagues.

The Sikhakhane panel says in its report that he said he’d “had romantic relationship with at least three of his fellow Sars employees … This number may be higher, but we have no independent evidence of this and therefore limit our comments to Mr Van Loggerenberg’s relationship with Ms Pinkham, Ms Wilson and Ms Snyckers.”

Although they did not report directly to him, at least two of these employees were subordinates.

Van Loggerenberg asked the panel not to name the Sars officials with whom he’d had romantic relationships. He also asked it not to name the charity he founded, Wachizungu.

Further, “he repeated this request when he was interviewed for the second time”. It was declined “for various reasons, including that no request for confidentiality had been made by the ladies themselves when they gave evidence to the panel”.

The panel criticised this, saying it regarded as “improper and audacious his attempt to tell the panel not to mention the name of any entity that the panel is specifically asked to consider. We are of the view that Van Loggerenberg fails to appreciate the significance of the integrity of the process.”

The panel said the romantic relationships alone were not sufficient to determine whether Van Loggerenberg’s conduct was inappropriate as Sars had no written policy that precluded intimate relationships among employees. It noted that Van Loggerenberg saw no potential conflict of interest in a senior manager having such affairs.


Lawyer, lover and informer

Belinda Walter, who triggered the South African Revenue Service spy investigation when her relationship with Sars spymaster Johannes Hendrikus van Loggerenberg ended acrimoniously, is an attorney who has also been an informer.

The director of Belinda Walter Attorneys Incorporated in Pretoria, she was recruited by the State Security Agency in 2010 to help in the fight to curb the illicit tobacco trade. She was also a paid informer for British American Tobacco UK.

With the backing of her handlers, she initiated the founding of the Fair Trade Independent Tobacco Association, whose members were the subject of Sars investigations. She was elected its first chairwoman in June 2012.

Walter also acted as attorney for several clients in the tobacco industry, including the Carnilinx Tobacco Company.

A colourful character not afraid to speak her mind, she launched an attack on DA leader Hellen Zille in December, accusing her of telling “ill-conceived and defamatory falsehoods from rooftops” about her. This was after Zille had commented on the “Zumafication” of Sars following press reports on Walter’s relationship with Van Loggerenberg.

Walter first met Van Loggerenberg on September 2, 2013 in his office in Pretoria. He had invited her in her capacity as chairwoman of the association following a complaint to Sars about illicit cigarette sales. Walter arrived wearing a concealed recording device provided by the State Security Agency. She told investigators that the agency “had received reports that Mr Van Loggerenberg was corrupt and protected certain factories in exchange for cash paymnents”.

It was during an exchange of cellphone messages on the afternoon of October 22 that Walter and Van Loggerenberg began to flirt with each other. They arranged to meet on the evening of October 25 at a restaurant. Two of Van Loggerenberg’s friends were also present.

Later that evening, Walter accompanied Van Loggerenberg to his home, where they had sex. Walter stayed over and “a sexual and intimate relationship commenced”.

During the early days of their relationship, the couple shared details of their work and home lives.

“As our relationship progressed, Walter… disclosed her association with the State Security Agency to a certain degree,” Van Loggerenberg told investigators.

“I came to discover… that she had disclosed her relationship with me to one of her clients, a tobacco manufacturer and a member of the Fair Trade Independent Tobacco Association who was subject to Sars investigations at the time.”

The relationship was encouraged by the tobacco barons.

Walter also said that Van Loggerenberg had told her details of his private life.

“During these many initial hours together, Van Loggerenberg divulged an immense amount of information to me regarding his covert role in the RS programme, his number – RS536,” Walter said. This is thought to refer to the number assigned to Van Loggerenberg in what he says was the “Republican Spy Programme” of the apartheid-era intelligence structures.

Before they became sexually involved, Walter was assaulted near her office and was informed by a certain “Mr Ian Small-Smith” that Van Loggerenberg was aware of the attack.

He told her Van Loggerenberg was “shocked and asked if he could assist in any way. Mr Small-Smith was close to Mr Van Loggerenberg and collected ‘lunch money’ from tobacco players on behalf of Mr Van Loggerenberg.”

Walter and Van Loggerenberg undertook several trips, to Namibia, Zambia, Botswana and Mozambique. Later, before trouble erupted, Van Loggerenberg ordered one of his former girlfriends at Sars to look into Walter’s tax affairs.


E-mail to paper ‘crossed the line’

In an e-mail to the Sunday Times on April 16, 2013 and titled “Tobacco and Politics”, Johannes van Loggerenberg alleged that:

* Amalgamated Tobacco Manufacturing, run by Yusuf Kajee, was linked to President Jacob Zuma’s son Edward and Deputy Minister of Justice John Jeffery.

* Phoebus Apollo, owned by Hennie Delport, was linked to Deputy Minister of Communications Stella Ndabeni, who sat on one of Delport’s boards.

* British American Tobacco was linked to former senior intelligence official Gibson Njenje and former minister of intelligence services Ronnie Kasrils.

* Carnilinx, run by Adriano Mazzotti, was linked to EFF leader Julius Malema.

The Sikhakhane investigative panel says in its report: “Our comment in relation to this e-mail is that Mr Van Loggerenberg’s conduct amounts to the abuse of state power. He has been placed in a position of power where he is able to collect and compare information to draw trends for purposes of effective tax collection.

“This panel’s view is that the disclosure of such information to a third party unrelated to the work of collecting and comparing taxpayer information is problematic and warrants action.”

Political Bureau

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