The South African Revenue Services (Sars) said on Friday that it was considering taking criminal and civil action against investigative journalist and author Jacques Pauw and the Sunday Times newspaper following an exposé about President Jacob Zuma’s income and tax affairs.
This comes after last weekend’s Sunday Times’ lead story, “Gangster republic: inside the Zuma family’s dealings with the criminal underworld”, which was an extract from Pauw’s book, “The President’s Keepers – Those keeping Zuma in power and out of prison”.
In the book, Pauw exposes, among others, an alleged plot by Zuma to quash his massive R63-million tax bill, his failure to submit his tax returns during at least the first five years of his presidency, and how Zuma kept receiving a secret monthly pay cheque from a friend despite being paid by the State as president.
Pauw also alleges that Sars Commissioner Tom Moyane is aiding Zuma to avoid his tax obligations.
In a strongly-worded statement, Sars said that the allegations pertaining to the Zuma’s tax affairs referred to events that occurred prior to Moyane assuming his current position, adding that they were just “reckless speculation and treacherous narrative”.
Sars said that Moyane does not interfere with a taxpayer’s assessment, audit, dispute or settlement, adding that there were governance mechanisms and control measures in place to ensure that all divisions had the necessary independence to deal with the tax affairs.
The revenue service expressed deep concern about the publication of confidential taxpayer information because that is in contravention of the Tax Administration Act (TAA) which prohibits the disclosure of taxpayer information by a Sars official or former Sars official.
“Sars views the publication of confidential taxpayer information through Mr. Pauw’s book and the Sunday Times as unlawful and a criminal offence in terms of Section 236 of the TAA,” Sars said.
“Thus Sars is seeking legal advice on what steps to take, including but not limited to criminal and civil investigation against Mr. Pauw and the Sunday Times into the circumstances pertaining to the unlawful disclosure of confidential taxpayer information.”
Sars further said that providing accurate information to refute these claims, would contravene the law and also breach the relationship of trust between it and taxpayers.