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Former Sars top brass claim they're victims of ‘deliberate agenda’

The Press Ombudsman has heard former Sars officials were victims of misinformation & a deliberate agenda.

The Sunday Times is defending the action. Picture: Vumani Mkhize/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - The Press Ombudsman has heard that the role of the Sunday Times in its reporting on the so called South African Revenue Service (Sars) rogue spy unit has all the makings of a spy novel.

The panel has also been told that former Sars deputy commissioner Ivan Pillay, and the former head of the institution's special unit, Johan van Loggerenberg, have been the victims of misinformation and a deliberate agenda.

The two were among the senior officials who lefts Sars, after the paper claimed they were running a rogue spy unit that was running brothels and spying on African National Congress politicians.

The attorney for Pillay and Loggerenberg, Mohamed Husain, says the way the news publication simply published information that was 'drip fed and leaked' suggests that it was part of a deliberate strategy.

He also says that while the paper may claim their critics are a club of malcontents, it is actually is the one that constitutes a club of malcontents.

Husain says the sources the paper used include a discredited former Sars official, a double agent, faceless sources who leaked only to the paper and a forensic report.

The Sunday Times is defending the action.

REPORTER SHOVED OUT OVER SPY STORIES

The Ombudsman has heard how a Sunday Times reporter resigned from the paper because she felt it's stories about Sars were unethical and part of an orchestrated campaign.

It's also heard how a man claimed to be a source for the stories was once married to the paper's then editor, Phylicia Oppelt.

Pillay and Loggerenberg have lodged a complaint against the paper's reporting.

In an affidavit, former Sunday Times reporter Pearlie Joubert says she was approached by Oppelt's former husband, Advocate Rudolf Mastenbroek, who said he believed some the revenue officials were trying to favour African National Congress officials.

She says she believed Mastenbroek was breaking an oath he had taken not to speak about his work at Sars.

When the paper started to publish these stories, she raised her concerns about the facts they contained, only to be isolated until she eventually resigned.

Joubert says she grew increasingly concerned when it emerged Mastenbroek was then appointed to the Kroon Commission, which advised the finance ministry on how to deal with the fallout from the spy unit scandal because he was clearly biased against Pillay and van Loggerenberg.

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