First On EWN: Sars ‘rogue unit’ scandal intensifies

The root of the apparent unit lies in a planned joint project signed off by Pravin Gordhan & Trevor Manuel.

FILE: Trevor Manuel. Picture: Aletta Gardner/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - Eyewitness News has learnt that the roots of what's claimed to be a rogue unit within the South African Revenue Service (Sars) lies in a planned joint project between Sars and the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), that was signed off by then commissioner Pravin Gordhan and then Finance Minister Trevor Manuel.

Documents show the unit was first authorised in 2007.

Last week, Sars commissioner Thomas Moyane suspended deputy commissioner Ivan Pillay and strategic planning head Peter Richer.

But Eyewitness News confirmed the panel investigating the unit made no findings against them.

Eyewitness News has seen a memo signed by both Gordhan and Manuel that planned to set up a unit that would be funded by Sars, but would sit within the NIA.

The unit would then help Sars with intelligence about the illicit economy.

In the memo, Manuel has handwritten a note saying he supports the plan but finds it an odd way of executing what he thinks is the NIA's economic mandate.

However, it appears the NIA then pulled out of the project while the agents stayed within Sars.

The question now appears to be whether Pillay and Richer broke the law by not completely breaking up the unit.

Eyewitness News has also learnt the investigation panel that probed claims of a rogue intelligence unit within the Revenue Service formally recommended a judicial commission of inquiry into whether the unit broke the law.

It's understood the panel recommended a judicial commission of inquiry because it didn't have the power to make legal findings about whether this intelligence unit was in fact legal.