Pretoria, 6 March 2013 – The South African Revenue Service (SARS) is providing an update to the media and the public on its operations to combat crimes such as smuggling, fraud and abuse of the tax system for the month of February 2013.
The aim is to inform the public about the work SARS’ Customs and Enforcement teams do on a daily basis, to provide an indication of the prevalence of tax and customs-related offences in South Africa, and to illustrate the support SARS provides to other law enforcement agencies.
Interventions to combat Fraud and Corruption
SARS will combat any form of corruption, fraud and abuse of the tax system. The following cases can be reported for February 2013:
- Four individuals were arrested on 22 February in Pongola, northern KwaZulu-Natal, for operating a fake “SARS Office” where they masqueraded as SARS staff and claimed to be assisting members of the public to register as taxpayers and submit tax returns. They were due to appear in the Pongola Magistrate’s Court.
- Two foreign nationals were arrested on 12 February for the attempted bribery of a SARS Customs and Border Control Unit (CBCU) team. The CBCU team were inspecting a warehouse premises where it was suspected that counterfeit goods and the contents of a wrongfully cleared shipping container were stored. The officer in charge of the CBCU team reported the initial approach to SARS Anti-Corruption, and the SAPS were also called in. After appropriate procedures were followed, the bribery attempt was allowed to proceed. The SARS team were “paid” R60 000 in order not to confiscate around R2 million worth of counterfeit goods and the container. The suspects were arrested upon handing over the money for the bribe.
- On 14 February 2013 taxpayer Keberekile Lekgetho pleaded guilty to charges related to the Prevention of Organised Crime Act. She admitted she had knowingly allowed her bank account to be used for, and that she had benefitted from, the proceeds of corrupt activities. She was sentenced to 3 years direct imprisonment. She is one of 11 accused in a case involving the payment of fraudulent tax returns to the value of around R9 million. A total of R8.2 million has been recovered thus far. The 10 other suspects are awaiting trial.
In the period from 1 to 28 February 2013, SARS Customs teams have:
Prevented over 96 kilos of narcotics (34.99kg cocaine and 61.7kg “tik” and ephedrine) valued at just under R30 million from entering the country. In all cases, the drugs seized and the individuals involved were handed over to the SAPS for further action. The drugs were seized in 21 different interventions, and included:
A female passenger on a flight from Delhi via Nairobi to Johannesburg was found with 15kg Methamphetamine (“Tik”), worth approximately R6 million, concealed in her baggage in rolls of thread
- A female passenger on a flight from India via Nairobi to Johannesburg was found with 25kg Ephedrine (a key component in the manufacture of “Tik”), worth approximately R7.5 million, concealed in her baggage in the wrapping around rolls of thread
- A female passenger on a flight from Mumbai via Nairobi to Johannesburg was found with 10kg Ephedrine, worth approximately R3 million, concealed in her baggage rolls of embroidery thread
- A female passenger on a flight from Mumbai via Nairobi to Johannesburg was found with 11.7kg Methamphetamine, worth approximately R3.5 million, concealed in her baggage in tape around rolls of thread
- A female passenger travelling from Sao Paulo to Johannesburg was found to be carrying 6kg cocaine, valued at approximately R1.7 million, in her luggage concealed in deodorant containers wrapped to look like cigars.
- A male passenger transiting through Johannesburg en route from Sao Paulo to Luanda was found with 5kg cocaine worth approximately R1.4 million, after SARS Detector Dog “April” reacted positively to his luggage. The drugs were concealed in gift-wrapped tins.
- 3.5kg cocaine worth approximately R1 million was found on an aircraft from Sao Paulo to Johannesburg via Doha. A female passenger who had already disembarked attempted to re-board the plane claiming to have forgotten luggage. SARS Detector Dog “Eddie” reacted positively to the handbag found at her seat. It was confirmed that the handbag contained two “body wraps” of narcotics which, allegedly, were intended to be carried by the passenger.
- 3kg cocaine, worth approximately R800 000, was found in body wraps carried by a male passenger who disembarked from a flight from Sao Paulo to Johannesburg.
- A male passenger travelling from Sao Paulo to Johannesburg was identified for further searches on arrival, and was found to be carrying 2.48kg cocaine worth R761 600 in body wraps around his torso and legs.
- A female passenger disembarked from a flight from Sao Paulo to Johannesburg was identified for further questioning, and sent for x-rays when nothing was revealed in a search of her luggage. She was found to be carrying 1.2kg cocaine, worth approximately R345 000, in 108 abdominal bullets.
- A male passenger off a flight from Sao Paolo to Johannesburg was found to be carrying 1.1kg cocaine, worth approximately R300 000, in 110 abdominal bullets, after being stopped for further searches and questioning.
- A female passenger, transiting through Johannesburg on her way to Maputo from Sao Paulo, was confirmed as carrying 1kg cocaine worth approximately R287 000 in 94 abdominal bullets.
Stopped 1536 “Viagra” tablets, valued at over R153 000, coming through the ports of entry (mainly sent in parcels from overseas to South African addresses).
- Detained 432 master cases and 1348 cartons of cigarettes which were being smuggled into the country.
- The biggest seizure saw 432 Master Cases, valued at R4 320 000, being seized at the Nakop Border Post, hidden in a truck under more than 3000 bags of charcoal – most of which were also undeclared. The driver and cargo were handed over to SAPS.
- Prevented the following from leaving the country:
- 9 cellular phones, in 4 different parcels (to Pakistan, Tanzania and Burundi), all suspected or confirmed stolen and/or blacklisted by service providers. All were handed over to the SAPS.
- R668 000 in cash, found undeclared in the possession of a passenger about to embark on a flight to Dubai from Johannesburg. The currency was seized for Reserve Bank procedures.
- Seized a number of other items coming into the country, including.
- 25 marijuana seeds, packed in CD covers, in a parcel from the Netherlands
- 8 diamonds and 36 other precious stones, in 3 parcels from Thailand and India, as well as in the luggage of a passenger from Beijing to Johannesburg. They were all detained for the Diamond Board.
- 8 passports hidden under the driver’s seat of a taxi crossing from Mozambique into South Africa. The driver was arrested and the passports handed over to Immigration.
- 4 spiders in plastic containers in a parcel form Germany, which were seized for CITES procedures.
- 2kg oysters seized at King Shaka International airport from a passenger arriving from Dubai.
- On 25 February, in a routine dog search at the CHC Container Depot in Durban, 25 480kg (637 x 40kg bags) of Soda Ash, 11 200l (56 x 200l drums) of Methylene Chloride and 15 000kg (600 x 25kg bags) of Sodium Bicarbonate were detained. These substances are frequently used in the illicit manufacture of narcotics, drugs and psychotropic substances, and are monitored by South African law and UN Conventions. All relevant documentation is being examined, and the docket will be handed over to the appropriate law enforcement agency.