'Rogue' unit never broke the law and was very effective

03 April 2016 - 02:00 By Johann van Loggerenberg

Since 2014, I have had my name vilified in the media, been accused of criminal acts, including salacious ones such as running a brothel.I was subjected to the humiliation of a succession of "investigations" during which none of these allegations was ever put to me to answer.Yet, "findings" emanating from these "investigations" consistently found their way into the media without me ever having been formally afforded sight thereof. Throughout, I was never allowed to publicly defend myself.story_article_left1Ironically, one of the allegations against me is that I have leaked "confidential South African Revenue Service information" to the media. My accusers and the journalists who repeat this allegation see nothing wrong in perpetrating the same "crime" they accuse me of. Most of these headlines featured an investigative unit of SARS, seditiously terming it "covert" and "rogue".I wish to thank the editor for allowing me this opportunity to put certain facts to the public. For my entire adult life, until my resignation last year, I served the country in the police and later at SARS with an unblemished record. I am proud to have been part of building the enforcement capability of SARS.All units that I managed at SARS were established lawfully and functioned so. None was "rogue" or "covert". One such unit was established to confront the illicit economy, in partnership with the intelligence services. The plan ultimately did not materialise. I was assigned to convert it into a proper SARS unit.Its mandate was to support SARS enforcement of tax and customs laws. At one point the unit had offices, but members were ultimately given leeway to work from home to ensure their safety and that of their work. The model was borrowed from international tax authorities. Revenue and customs agencies worldwide have units like this.story_article_right2I became manager of the unit in March 2008. I ensured it operated lawfully throughout. At its height, it comprised 26 people. By 2010, this number had come down to only six. The public may wonder why such a small group of people has commanded the attention of national media for so long.They did not "break into homes" or "plant listening devices". They did not "bug people", did not "intercept telecommunications", did not "spy on cops" and did not operate "secret funds". They did not "operate front companies" or brothels, did not "infiltrate politicians", did not "eavesdrop on conversations" and were never involved in tax settlements. These units never acquired or used equipment attributed to them in recent public statements.Officials in these units served South Africa with distinction. They did so under difficult circumstances and certainly stepped on a few toes. Their work yielded excellent results even if I cannot discuss these publicly. The disbandment of the unit is a loss to SARS as its investigations would have yielded much to the fiscus.I have read the Muzi Sikhakhane report and can show how flawed it is on facts and in law. The Kroon advisory board issued a statement endorsing this report without bothering to ask me any questions. The KPMG report has been disclosed to the media but not to me. Had any of these bodies afforded me a fair hearing, they would not have dignified the allegations as, or elevated rumour to, "findings". They have wronged not only me, but caused immeasurable harm to many innocent people.People in the shadows are fomenting allegations about the unit, intent on undermining one of the most effective institutions in the country for nefarious ends. Many South Africans are waking up to how far they are prepared to go. They used an ill-fated romantic relationship with Ms Belinda Walter to discredit years of good work.When I met her, I was unaware that, as a lawyer, she not only did work in the tobacco industry, but also for the intelligence services. I came to discover this during and after the relationship. I gave my word not to discuss her publicly and have kept to that.If the Hawks investigation is conducted as it should be, I have no doubt that the truth will out. I've no doubt that the courts or any other independent forums will find no wrong with the work we did.To former unit members: hold your heads high; we did nothing wrong. Recall the times I reminded you that a day may come where we would have to account for our work and therefore must do things properly. That day has come. Co-operate fully wherever required and remember that truth is informed by fact, not media leaks.To other former colleagues: thank you for the messages of support. It was a privilege and honour to have served with you. To my family and friends, thank you for believing my side of the story.An amicable settlement was reached between the Sunday Times, Ivan Pillay and Johann van Loggerenberg in respect of various matters currently before the Press Ombudsman. In terms of the settlement between the parties, all Press Ombudsman matters will be withdrawn by all parties. Van Loggerenberg had indicated his intention not to institute any civil claims against the Sunday Times and the Times Media Group. The settlement is considered full and final and on this basis no further actions will follow.

This article is reserved for Sunday Times subscribers.

A subscription gives you full digital access to all Sunday Times content.

Already subscribed? Simply sign in below.

Registered on the BusinessLIVE, Business Day, Financial Mail or Rand Daily Mail websites? Sign in with the same details.

Questions or problems? Email helpdesk@timeslive.co.za or call 0860 52 52 00.