Cape Town - A 61-year-old man will spend three years behind bars after he defrauded Sars of R4 million by claiming a VAT refund while he was self-employed.
John Februarie was sentenced to 16 years imprisonment, but 13 years was suspended after he was convicted of five counts of fraud, three counts of Contravention of the Tax Administration Act, four counts of uttering and six counts of the Contravention of the Value Added Tax.
An investigation led by the National Prosecuting Authority’s (NPA) Special Tax Unit, Sars and the police led to his conviction.
The State proved that while Februarie was self-employed, he claimed a VAT refund of the sum of R4 million and created fake invoices in order to pay off debt he had owed Sars.
Sentencing proceedings took place at the Bellville Regional Court this week.
NPA spokesperson Eric Ntabazalila said Sars had stopped the refund before it was paid over to him.
“Februarie was convicted on five counts of fraud, three counts of Contravention of the Tax Administration Act, four counts of uttering and six counts of the Contravention of the Value Added Tax Act,” he explained.
“The court sentenced him to a total of 16 years imprisonment but suspended some sentences with conditions that he is not convicted of fraud, tax evasion and forgery or uttering.
“It then ordered some sentences to run concurrently, effectively sentencing him to three years imprisonment and also declaring him unfit to possess a firearm.
“The sentence is the result of coordinated work by the Special Tax Unit of the National Prosecuting Authority, Sars Criminal Investigations Unit and SAPS, who ensured that all the needed evidence was obtained and presented in court to ensure a conviction and a proper sentence.”
Senior State Advocate Lunga Ntshokoma told the Bellville Regional Court that Februarie was self-employed and had failed to pay VAT to SARS of R 355 263.
Ntabazailia added that Februarie tried to cover up his tracks by creating fake invoices to claim from Sars, but it backfired when he realised that he could not pay Sars, he devised a scheme of claiming a VAT refund to a sum of over R4 million. This was done to set off the debt he owed Sars. He further submitted fictitious invoices to substantiate the claim for a VAT refund. Sars, fortunately, stopped the refund before it was paid over to him, and the debt of R 355 263 remained unpaid.
‘The offences were committed over two years.”
Magistrate Njengelele Tshiki said during sentencing that Februarie had meticulously planned his steps.
“When one looks at the scheme employed and the planning, I am of the view that a sentence in terms of section 276(1)(h) or a suspended sentence will be excessively lenient. This was not the spur of the moment crime. The accused must have set down and thought of how he was going to defraud Sars.”
Ntabazalila said they were pleased with the conviction and sentence. “The National Prosecuting Authority welcomes the sentence and hopes this will send a strong message to other perpetrators of crime. The entity is thankful for the sterling work done by the investigating teams and partners in the criminal justice cluster.