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Sunday Times to appeal order to retract Sars rogue unit articles

The fact that a report on the unit was in its draft form led to the Press Ombudsman’s decision.

Picture: Sars.

JOHANNESBURG - The National Treasury's disclosure that a report on an alleged rogue spy unit within the South African Revenue Service (Sars) was in its draft stages has led to the Press Ombudsman ordering the Sunday Times to retract articles implicating former officials Ivan Pillay and Johann van Loggerenberg and Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan.

The newspaper says it intends appealing the ruling by ombudsman Johan Retief, who says the reporting on the unit was unfair and inaccurate.

He ruled that the KPMG report was at the centre of the claims that Pillay and van Loggerenberg set up the unit and conducted illegal operations and that Gordhan must have known about it.

Retief says it's unclear if Sunday Times journalists were misled by their source on the legality or status of the KPMG report or if they deliberately misled the public.

While Pillay and van Loggerenberg say the ombudsman ruling vindicates their claim that Sars has been targeted by the Sunday Times, the newspaper denies this.

It intends to appeal the ruling and maintains its reporting has been balanced and unbiased - both van Loggerenberg and Pillay say they will oppose this.

The Sunday Times has also been ordered to publish a page two apology to all three people mentioned in the judgment.