Lebelo is one of the few Sars group executive members who chose to co-operate with the Nugent Commission, appointed by President Cyril Ramaphosa to investigate tax administration and governance in Sars.
On Thursday, Lebelo said in his opening remarks: “I did not purge anyone in Sars.”
He said he had chosen to participate in the commission after being labelled in the media as a “henchman of Sars commissioner Tom Moyane”.
He was reacting to previous testimonies implicating him and others, especially suspended commissioner Moyane and his former Sars chief operating officer, Jonas Makwakwa, saying they were responsible for the exodus of experienced Sars investigators, auditors and lawyers who blocked tobacco smuggling and the illicit flow of money, allegedly for their own personal interests.
The commission has heard evidence from various witnesses of how institutions that fought organised crime were dismantled.
Pillay also testified how he was pushed on the grounds that he had set up a “rogue unit” while Sars commissioner to spy on several high-profile people, in particular, former president Jacob Zuma.
During his testimony, Lebelo was adamant he had no role, as head of employee relations, in a decision to discipline Pillay for his alleged role in the formation of the unit.
Lebelo added it was a normal occurrence at Sars that Moyane would bypass him on numerous labour matters.
He said it was decided to charge Pillay after an independent senior counsel confirmed the findings of the Sikhakhane panel report in 2014 that a rogue unit had been unlawfully set up. Lebelo gave the impression he had nothing to do with the saga, but it appeared that advocate Carol Steinberg had an ace up her sleeve.
Steinberg produced a memorandum, dated April 29, 2015, in which the same senior counsel advised Lebelo personally that there was no substantial evidence to support the existence of a rogue unit.
According to the memorandum, Lebelo ignored legal opinion and insisted that Pillay be disciplined.
“Our client (Luther Lebelo) insisted on going ahead with the charge,” the memo stated.
Initially, Lebelo denied knowledge of the memorandum but later retracted it. He asked Judge Nugent to allow him until Friday to explain his decision to continue charging Pillay despite legal advice not to.