Beware a peeping State
Was that controversial covert SARS unit “rogue” – unlawful – by definition? Or was it unlawful because of things it did? And is there any point in making the distinction? In this issue we take a closer look at the arguments.
That is immediately followed by an angry letter from Johann van Loggerenberg accusing Noseweek of malicious reporting, and protesting his and his SARS unit’s innocence on all counts.
A last-minute addition to the argument: Any evidence that SARS obtained by unlawful means could not be used in court to prosecute a tax fraud. At best, the delinquent taxpayer could be extorted into agreeing to a confidential settlement, usually entailing the payment of an amount considerably less than the outstanding tax debt and penalty.
Quite apart from being a form of racketeering on the part of state officials, it resulted in the national Treasury getting less than its due, and the miscreant being able to buy himself/herself out of trouble – and back into the extremely lucrative smuggled cigarette business. The only penalty that discourages such big-time operators is criminal prosecution and a prison term.
Concerns about state institutions – not just SARS – spying on citizens by intercepting private communications without legal reason and the appropriate authority are becoming more widespread – follow the saga involving Sam Sole and the investigative unit, amaBhungane before jumping to the defence of the SARS rogue unit.
In her report on the SARS unit, the Inspector General of Intelligence Dr Setlhomamaru Dintwe reported that Johann van Loggerenberg had stated that when intercepts were required by SARS, they approached police Crime Intelligence to obtain the appropriate warrants. His boss, Ivan Pillay had reiterated this.
Crime Intelligence and the Hawks denied they had ever received such applications. “This actually lends weight to the existence of a covert unit within SARS conducting its own interceptions,” the Inspector General said.
JCI Cover-up, Round 999
When lawyers speak of employing the “Stalingrad strategy” as a defence, they mean, according to Wikipedia, a strategy of wearing down the plaintiff by tenaciously fighting anything the plaintiff presents by whatever means possible and appealing every ruling favourable to the plaintiff. Here, the defendant does not present a meritorious case. This tactic or strategy is named for the Russian city besieged by the Germans in World War II.
As Jacob Zuma’s advocate, Kemp J Kemp put it: “This is not a battle where you send a champion out and have a little fight and that’s it – this is more like ‘we will fight them in every room, in every street, in every house’.”
The key to this strategy is lots of money. Financial institutions with deep pockets frequently resort to this iniquitous strategy.
It’s fair to assume that Investec and audit ally KPMG have adopted the strategy to avoid the bank being held accountable for its complicity in the multi-billion-rand frauds perpetrated by Brett Kebble 16 years ago, and the subsequent coverups.
We know it has cost Investec and its surrogates in JCI a vast amount of money in legal and in (non-)audit fees. The upside for them: it has, undoubtedly cost their opponents similar amounts – which hopefully they can ill afford. More than a decade of litigation means little to a banking institution or a major audit firm, but could be wasting the last productive years of their opponents’ lives.
The unnamed scandal is that state institutions have implicitly condoned this “game”, to the extent that they must by now be regarded as complicit. That in a country where the fabric of society is coming apart as a result of a dire lack of resources. See "The JCI coverup, round 999" in this issue.
Noseweek writer Jack Lundin has received the following implied death threat from arms dealer Johan Erasmus, following his story “Fake news and Gaddafi’s loot” (nose235) which suggested that Erasmus’s colourful account of Gaddafi’s so-called lost treasure might contain a strong element of fiction:
"Hi Jack, You always have been a duplicitous piece of low life. You off course failed to mention that you are busy writing a book re the Gaddafi issue. As I understood that [sic] the Gaddafi moneys have been moved through Keith Forre of the CIA. Now the Libyans are going to be very upset. I will ensure your name gets mentioned as a co-conspirator in the stealing of the Libyan moneys. Shame. You really brought this on yourself trying to make me look crazy – you really are a despicable little twerp. Enjoy yourself and keep on looking over your shoulder for them Libyans.
– Johan Erasmus, email@example.com"
Incidentally, Jack’s work-in-progress North African novel has nothing to do with the former Libyan leader’s so-called lost loot.
– The Editor
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