SUNDAY TIMES - Pravin Gordhan threatens to sue SARS 'bully'
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Sunday Times Investigations By PIET RAMPEDI, MZILIKAZI WA AFRIKA and STEPHAN HOFSTATTER, 2015-05-17 00:00:00.0

Pravin Gordhan threatens to sue SARS 'bully'

Pravin Gordhan's name has been mentioned in passing throughout the saga of the South African Revenue Service's rogue unit, because he was head of the tax authority when the covert unit was set up in 2007.

In addition, he recruited his then SARS deputy, Ivan Pillay, who set up the unit and recruited its former manager, Andries Janse van Rensburg, known as "Skollie".

Gordhan, now the minister of co-operative governance and traditional affairs, led SARS for 16 years, first as commissioner between 1998 and 2009, and later as finance minister - a position that made him the tax agency's political head between 2009 and 2014.

Since October last year Gordhan has declined to answer questions from Sunday Times reporters on the rogue unit . He referred all inquiries to SARS, saying it was better placed to comment because he could not rule from the grave.

After recent media reports that SARS had threatened to sequestrate Gordhan's estate unless he agreed to testify at Pillay's now-aborted disciplinary hearing, Gordhan released a strongly worded statement in which he accused SARS of "bullying" and "abuse of power".

"I have not spoken in the public domain until now out of regard for the incumbents and in the belief that ... alleged disputes, among others, will be resolved constructively.

"However, some have seen it necessary to cast unwarranted aspersions on my integrity and record of public service.

"This is unacceptable and must not go unchallenged," Gordhan said.

He threatened legal action against commissioner Tom Moyane and SARS.

SARS hit back, saying in a statement that neither Moyane nor the tax authority's lawyers sent Gordhan letters threatening to sequestrate him.

Spokesman Luther Lebelo dismissed such reports as "a distortion of facts", saying SARS threatened to sequestrate Pillay's estate, not Gordhan's.

He said SARS had merely sent correspondence inviting Gordhan to a consultation about his knowledge of the rogue unit and how it was set up.

Since it emerged this week that Pillay and other rogue-unit members faced criminal charges, questions have been raised about why SARS had not taken similar action against Gordhan, under whose watch the unit was set up.

Lebelo refused to say if Moyane intended laying criminal charges against Gordhan: "SARS [wishes not to] respond to your questions in their order of sequence but [prefers] neither to confirm [nor] deny your allegations.

SARS will no doubt refer all alleged criminal commissions to the relevant state institutions tasked to deal with such matters since SARS ... carries a constitutional obligation and an inherent moral responsibility to do so," he said.