Tshwane, 31 March 2021 – The South African Revenue Service (SARS) Commissioner Edward Kieswetter welcomes the arrest of two convicted VAT fraudsters who thought they had escaped justice by disappearing off the face of the earth for eight years.
A former SARS official, Rudi Willemse, and two financial advisors, Hein Fourie and Abraham van Wyk, were sentenced in the Klerksdorp Magistrate’s Court on 30 July 2004 to three years imprisonment on a charge of corruption and to seven years imprisonment on a charge of fraud. The magistrate ordered that the sentences run concurrently with each accused effectively sentenced to seven years direct imprisonment.
Initially there were seven suspects arrested, including three SARS officials. However, the trials were separated after four of the accused pleaded guilty, while Willemse, Fourie and Van Wyk pleaded not guilty.
The matter involved a refund for a false VAT input claim to the value of R2.7 million submitted on behalf of an entity called Elandslaagte Mining in Klerksdorp. The claim was submitted for the alleged purchase of mining equipment which never took place and the SARS officials were bribed to approve the refund.
Willemse, Fourie and Van Wyk applied for leave to appeal their convictions, which was granted to them. The appeal process took several years to be finalised, but in 2011 the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria denied the appeal by the three fraudsters.
In 2013 the Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein also denied the appeal of Willemse, Fourie and Van Wyk. Instructions were then issued for all three accused to report to Correctional Services to begin their seven-year term of imprisonment. All three accused failed to report to Correctional Services, resulting in warrants of arrest being issued for all three.
Since 2013 there were several unsuccessful attempts to trace Willemse, Fourie and Van Wyk. This included having all three fraudsters circulated on the SAPS system. However, it was established that one of the fraudsters, Abraham van Wyk, had since passed away.
Eventually, in March 2021, the two remaining fraudsters, Rudi Willemse and Hein Fourie, were traced by the Klerksdorp police Tracing Unit and were arrested. Seventeen years after their sentencing, and eight years on the run, Willemse and Fourie are now serving their seven-year prison term at the Correctional Services in Klerksdorp.
Commissioner Kieswetter said, “SARS is determined to ensure that actions by our staff are beyond reproach and will combat any criminal action on the part of SARS employees and citizens who try to defraud the fiscus of much-needed revenue. The South African public places enormous trust in SARS employees to execute their work dutifully and loyally and the action of Mr Willemse betrays that trust”.
The revenue collected by SARS plays a vital role to help build a capable state that delivers public goods to our society as a whole especially, the most vulnerable groups and procuring medical supplies during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
Mr Kieswetter added that SARS had recently begun to recruit persons with valuable skills to help boost the organisation’s capability to prevent revenue leakages and to prevent tax and customs crimes from occurring.
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