Sars questions the credibility of Lackay’s letter

The letter claimed there was evidence that BAT had worked with members of the State Security Agency.

FILE: Sars’ Luther Lebelo says they’ve now seen the full letter that was given to Parliament by Lackey. Picture: Sars.

JOHANNESBURG - Sars on Friday said it doubted whether a letter submitted to Parliament by its former spokesperson Adrian Lackay that claimed British American Tobacco (BAT) had broken South African laws, was actually written by him.

Earlier this week, Eyewitness News revealed how the letter claimed there was evidence that the firm had worked with members of the State Security Agency.

But the firm has denied these claims.

Sars' Luther Lebelo said they'd seen the full letter that was given to Parliament by Lackay.

"The letter is about narrating the story of someone else, is has an element of hearsay, saying this person told and this person told me. In fact, we are even doubtful as far as that letter was written by him."

In the document Lackay explained how former Sars investigator Johann van Loggerenberg came across evidence that BAT was involved in these activities while looking through data on a cell phone.

He also said van Loggerenberg was frustrated that no one at Sars would investigate the claims.

Meanwhile, Parliament Trade and Industry Committee called on SARS to do more to crack down on the illicit trade of tobacco.

Officials from the Tobacco Institute of Southern Africa on Friday told Members of Parliament (MPs) that 23 percent of the local cigarette trade was made up of illegal products.

Parliamentarians also heard the economy has lost more than R20 billion to the trade of illegal cigarettes in the last five years.

Committee chairperson Joan Fubbs said they were concerned that licensed manufacturers had been implicated in the illegal trade.

She said what was even more worrying are claims that companies were using two accounting books to cover their tracks.

"I'm sure it's very difficult with two sets of books to try and work out what is happening. But there has to be some intervention that cans be taken."

Sars' Godfrey Baloyi said they'd increase patrols on border posts, but added they were also dealing with staff shortages.

Baloyi said Sars was working with other agencies including crime intelligence to curb the problem.