Pretoria, Monday 14 December 2020 – The South African Revenue Service (SARS) has noted with deep concern the arrest on 3 December 2020 of an employee, Mr Sello Lentsoane, for alleged corruption. He appeared with co-accused Christian Chann Bezuidenhout (64) and his son Christian Bezuidenhout (19) at Tshilwavhusiku Magistrate Court for a bail application.
The Bezuidenhouts were granted bail on Friday 4 December 2020, while Mr Lentsoane’s bail’s application was denied. He will appear again on 15 December 2020.
It is alleged that Mr Lentsoane, who was off duty on the 3rd December 2020, travelled to Tshilwavhusiku Police Station in full SARS uniform and pretended that SARS had sent him to collect a truck which was loaded with cigarettes.
Owing to the suspicious circumstances surrounding this request, the South African Police Service (SAPS) called SARS to ascertain whether it had authorised the release of the truck to SARS. SARS informed their SAPS counterparts that Mr Lentsoane, who was supposedly on leave on the day, was not authorised to remove the truck from Tshilwavhusiku to Beit Bridge Border Post.
The truck was carrying 742 boxes (master cases) of Remington Gold cigarettes with a customs value of R1,398,670.00. The loss to the state (tax at risk) was calculated at R8, 504,451.55.
This incident takes place against the background where SARS has been dealing harshly with various criminal activities amongst its staff.
From 2017/18 to date, 14 SARS employees were sentenced and convicted for crimes ranging from income tax fraud, VAT fraud, theft and racketeering. With regard to internal disciplinary steps taken by SARS, 104 employees were dismissed and 121 resigned during this period.
Other internal disciplinary steps were also taken, including final written warnings given to 27 employees and final written warnings with 10 days suspension without pay to 14 employees.
SARS Commissioner Edward Kieswetter expressed his determination to root out corruption within SARS as the world recently celebrated anti-corruption day, as well as stamping out other crimes that threaten the revenue collection capability of SARS.
He said one of the strategic pillars of SARS was to ensure trust and credibility among taxpayers. He said those that abuse this trust will face the full might of the law.
Commissioner Kieswetter added: “Most of the employees at SARS are committed to our Higher Purpose and work with unquestionable integrity. They exemplify the values of honesty and professionalism. We cannot allow the behaviour of a few to detract from the importance of our work in service of our country.
“Therefore, those who indulge in criminal acts are a disgrace to the organisation and the country. SARS will do everything in its power and to the full extent of the law to deal decisively with corrupt employees and their accomplices.”