SUNDAY TIMES - Spook who created havoc as SARS rogue-unit chief
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Sunday Times Investigations By MZILIKAZI WA AFRIKA, STEPHAN HOFSTATTER and PIET RAMPEDI, 2015-05-17 00:00:00.0

Spook who created havoc as SARS rogue-unit chief

SARS branch. File photo.
Image: Gallo Images/Foto24/Theana Calitz

Andries Janse van Rensburg, the former intelligence operative who set up the South African Revenue Service rogue unit, is a dishonest information peddler with delusions of grandeur.

This emerges in an explosive affidavit by rogue agent Helgard Lombard submitted in support of a case he registered with the Hawks against Van Rensburg this week.

It is also believed that SARS commissioner Tom Moyane will submit his own affidavit to strengthen Lombard's case against Van Rensburg, who is also known as "Skollie".

In his affidavit, Lombard describes how Skollie boasted that "we have the power to decide who will next govern South Africa", claiming the rogue unit "could execute a coup" by deciding to whom they should leak the "evidence" obtained by bugging the offices of the National Prosecuting Authority.

"This would have divided the country and he could decide who [should] take over," said Lombard of Skollie.

While heading the unit, Van Rensburg instructed Lombard, one of his most trusted lieutenants, to bug the offices of the now disbanded Scorpions, claiming to have the blessing of the then president Thabo Mbeki.

In his affidavit Lombard said Skollie told him only five other people were aware of the operation, codenamed Project Sunday Evenings: Mbeki, his finance minister Trevor Manuel, the then SARS commissioner Pravin Gordhan, his deputy Ivan Pillay, and Skollie himself.

But when Lombard asked Skollie for letters of approval from the relevant authorities for the project, he was told: "Do you think a judge will refuse a request from the president?"

According to Lombard, Skollie's name-dropping went on for months until he was caught red-handed "manipulating the information that was on the CD [from bugging the Scorpions]", adding "fictitious information that was never said".

Lombard forced Skollie to delete the false information before it was submitted and reported him to Pillay and, later, Johann van Loggerenberg, who was SARS head of risk and enforcement.

Pillay told Lombard that Mbeki never gave instructions to bug NPA offices but assured him that should the information about the operation leak out, Lombard should say Pillay had given the instruction.

Lombard said his first appointment letter in SARS "was falsified on instructions from Skollie", who promised him more money, because "I decided to join the State Security Agency rather than SARS."

However, he later received an original and official SARS letter to sign again.

Last year the Sunday Times reported that Skollie tried to blackmail SARS into giving him a handsome golden handshake for keeping the activities of the rogue unit a secret.

Skollie was eventually paid R3.1-million and left quietly, leaving a legacy as a feared spook who always "distorts the truth".

Lombard said Skollie used some of the money to buy a farm in Standerton, Mpumalanga. He allegedly bribed an official in the surveyor-general's office so he could buy a portion of a farm that was not supposed to be sub-divided.

Van Loggerenberg was chosen as the new boss of the rogue unit after Skollie left. But it was during Skollie's tenure that the unit allegedly bugged President Jacob Zuma's private residence in Forest Town, Johannesburg. At the time Zuma had been fired by Mbeki as deputy president and faced a rape charge.

The Sunday Times traced Skollie to a town in the Western Cape in October last year. He declined to confirm or deny the allegations against him.