Brian Sokutu
Senior Print Journalist
2 minute read
26 Mar 2021
8:26 am

‘Bad guys’ went to war against Sars

Brian Sokutu

He said physical and psychological strategies included threats, abductions and killings.

Former Sars group executive Johann van Loggerenberg after testifying at the state capture commission. Picture: Nigel Sibanda

So intense was resistance to effective investigative strategies to stamp out illicit dealings and rogue units in post-democratic South Africa, that criminals planned to bomb the office of former SA Revenue Service (Sars) senior executive Johann van Loggerenberg, the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture heard yesterday.

On his first day of testifying before Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, Van Loggerenberg said Sars investigative units operated efficiently, with criminals resorting to various methods, including “political name-dropping”, to scare off investigators.

He said physical and psychological strategies included threats, abductions and killings.

“The earlier method they employed was to corrupt people by paying money to officials. You either had to make something happen or not. That was the standard informal counter the bad guys had. By the time we had
the special compliance unit, the bad guys altered the way they responded to us.

“Typical response was to delay Sars enquiries or ask for extra time in giving information – or sickness.”

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Sars investigators then encountered “political names-dropping. Someone would say ‘if you touch me you are going to touch so-and-so. You touch so-and-so, he knows minister so-and-so’.”

It became much more brutal when criminals failed to make headway.

“People being threatened and told ‘if you want your job you better back off’. Somebody would ask for your name and surname because he knows so-and-so. By the mid-2000s, people got threatened, were held hostage, shot at, assaulted and murdered.”

He added: “We even uncovered a plot when they were planning to bomb my office. Illegal drug dealers, people
involved in cash-in-transit heists and organised people in jail for tax evasion did not see it coming,” said Van Loggerenberg.

“They were people who looked at smugglers of illicit goods and drugs – had police officer status. The team was of a paramilitary nature. They would conduct inspections, raids, arrest people and detain goods.”

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He said that between 2009 and 2010, the illicit economy cost the state over R100 billion per year.

“The technical investigative units were based at ports of entry. They looked at goods leaving the country as well as where they originated. There were people who looked at smugglers of illegal goods, drugs or cigarettes.

“We provided an auxiliary support unit to projects. We had a world-class IT lab which also helped the police. We conducted auxiliary support to other investigative units and to other law enforcement agencies.

“Ours was about a risk to revenue service officials – life and limb or risk to the evidence.”

-brians@citizen.co.za

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