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Nugent inquiry: Luther Lebelo denies knowledge of FIC report on Jonas Makwakwa

The report found that Makwakwa had been receiving numerous payments into his personal bank account, which may have amounted to corruption.

Senior Sars official Luther Lebelo at the Nugent commission of inquiry on 27 September 2018. Picture: Barry Bateman/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - Senior South African Revenue Service (Sars) official Luther Lebelo has claimed ignorance when asked about suspended commissioner Tom Moyane’s conduct related to a Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) report about a revenue service executive.

The Nugent Commission of Inquiry heard that the first thing he did after receiving a report about Jonas Makwakwa was to seek a legal opinion on whether the FIC was legally allowed to investigate the former senior tax official.

The report found that Makwakwa had been receiving numerous payments into his personal bank account, which may have amounted to corruption.

Evidence leader advocate Carol Steinberg questioned Lebelo because he signed off on the legal opinion invoice.

“Wasn’t it clear to you on the face of the invoice about the FIC that Mr Moyane’s conduct was improper?”

Lebelo responded: “No. I didn’t even know that there was an FIC report. I just saw instructions on sourcing an opinion about the FIC.”

IVAN PILLAY SUSPENSION

Lebelo has denied he was part of a purge of staff after Moyane was appointed as the commissioner.

Evidence presented at the inquiry on Thursday revealed that legal opinion related to the suspension of former Deputy Commissioner Ivan Pillay was ignored.

Steinberg told the commission legal advice about Pillay’s suspension was ignored.

“I think it’s a real inference to make that when the deputy commissioner, contrary to the advice of senior counsel, is not heard or given an opportunity but is suspended as quickly as possible, it’s a reasonable inference that there’s an attempt to purge.”

Luther Lebelo claimed ignorance.

“I was not part of that, I don’t know why it was rushed but I was just following the process.”

The High Court later found against Sars for the manner in which he was suspended.

(Edited by Zamangwane Shange)

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