PORT ELIZABETH - A suspected kingpin of a multimillion-rand abalone enterprise told the Port Elizabeth High Court on Wednesday that he was too uneducated to know that he needed to declare tax to the South African Revenue Service (SARS) while living the high life.
Julian Brown, 32, a high school drop out, was testifying at his trial where he is being prosecuted for a string of charges which include racketeering between January 2015 and April 2016.
Brown is accused of heading the enterprise alongside Eugene "Boesman" Victor and Brandon Turner, allegedly his right-hand men.
Brown told the court that at the time of his arrest in June 2016, he made use of luxury vehicles which included a Golf 7, two Ford Rangers and a motorcycle, none of which were registered in his name.
At the time, he also rented out a R12 000 per month property in South End. He said that he made up to R500 000 per month in turnover from his construction company J&B Construction.
"I didn't declare tax, when I left school I didn't have an education about tax," he said.
Brown claimed he roped in Shaun Schoeman as a partner who was meant to sort out the vat registration. Brown said that Schoeman was supposed to guide him.
State prosecutor Martin Le Roux put it to Brown that SARS instituted court proceedings against him in order to compel him to complete a lifestyle audit. "Fact is that you were not registered as a taxpayer and you had to go and see a lawyer to give an explanation as to where all this wealth was coming from," said Le Roux.
Brown, who often gave long winded explanations in response to simple questions, was advised by Judge Mandela Makaula not to go off on a tangent.
He also claimed that a police detective, Captain Nikki Erasmus, had a long standing vendetta against him and was out to make his life "a living hell." He claimed that the police nabbed the wrong person and the real kingpin in the abalone enterprise was a Mr De Villers who "never got his hands dirty".
He also denied that any of the Section 204 witnesses were his friends and said that many people would come to him for money or a job and he was always willing to offer a helping hand: "I know a lot of people, I have over 5000 friends on Facebook".
He also told the court that when he lent money to people he always charged them 30 percent interest on loan repayments. Brown vehemently denied having any knowledge of the abalone trade and often referred to it as "funny business" most of his employees had been involved in.
A string of associates who allegedly helped Brown build up the abalone enterprise, lining their own pockets in the process, have since testified in the Port Elizabeth High Court.
Section 204 witness Edgar Clulow, 26, earlier testified how Brown roped him into the business. Clulow, who did mechanical and building work, told the court he had helped his father with renovations at Brown's grandmother's house when Brown contacted him shortly afterwards.
"Julian contacted me on my cell and I thought he was going to ask me to do something at his grandmother's house...but he requested me to meet him at a Sasol Garage in Sidwell," Clulow said. "When I got there he [Julian] said he would put petrol in my bakkie, he then asked me to go weigh abalone for him in Schauderville."
Clulow, who is a father of three young children, said that Brown gave him blue Chokka bags and a scale and instructed him to follow him to a house in the city's northern areas.
"Brown was driving up and down in the street to ensure that the police were not around," Clulow said.
He testified that he was then instructed by Brown to take the abalone to a nearby KFC where a white golf would collect the package. He detailed similar operations which took place in Westering, Bluewater Bay and Forest Hill, further implicating Turner as the driver of the white pick up vehicle used in the operations.
But, when the State put Clulow's evidence to Brown on Wednesday, he dismissed it and claimed that Clulow worked for him on various construction sites. "Most of these guys who ask for jobs have been busy with this funny business. I tried to give him [Clulow] a job to get him away from these things, he was obviously doing these things in his private time," said Brown.
The trial continues.
African News Agency (ANA)