SARS warns companies against non-compliant activities

South African Revenue Service (SARS) Commissioner, Edward Kieswetter, has reiterated the organisation’s commitment to combatting illicit trade and criminal economic activities. 

“Those persons that systematically and deliberately set out to deprive what is due to the fiscus through fraudulent and other non-compliant activities will be confronted and dealt with in terms of the law. This kind of conduct will be made hard and costly,” Kieswetter said on Thursday.

His remarks come after SARS, through its Syndicated Tax & Customs Crime Division, carried out inspections as well as search and seizure operations on entities in the banking sector, tobacco and cigarette sector, alcohol, gold and clothing industries in KwaZulu-Natal, Western Cape and Gauteng.

The premises that were inspected and searched include the residential premises of certain individual taxpayers, gold industry and banking employees.

The operations are related to wider investigations and audits into illicit financial flows and illicit trade in gold, alcohol, clothing, cigarettes and tobacco products.

“The objective of these interventions are twofold: firstly, they assist SARS with its verification processes for tax compliance and identifying information that may support such audits. Secondly, SARS may corroborate its evidence already at its disposal for potential criminal proceedings.

“These interventions were initiated after potential discrepancies were identified in customs declarations and tax returns related to such entities as well as bank statements which could not be relied on,” SARS said.

In one of the targeted entities, SARS obtained an order for a search and seizure of the premises of Bullion Star (Pty) Ltd on Monday 28 March 2021 in the North Gauteng High Court.

Bullion Star is a gold refinery and has the facilities to transform minerals into a higher-value product, which can be sold locally or exported. Bullion Star is a registered exporter.

“In contrast to Bullion Star’s previous returns submitted to SARS, the VAT return submitted for the 2022/02 period reflected a refund claim in the amount of R13.9 million. Prior to the end of January 2022, Bullion Star rarely exported any goods, but during February 2022, Bullion Star exported unwrought gold in excess of R126 million.

“The above deviation caused Bullion Star to be selected for an audit of its tax affairs and the search warrant was executed in order to obtain information pertaining to the goods sold and exported by Bullion Star. The warrant was executed at three premises,” SARS said.

However, Bullion Star refused SARS access to its business premises and the vehicles on its premises.

“Security video footage revealed that goods were removed from the business premises and placed into vehicles on its premises, prior to SARS gaining access to the property. Based on the risk that these goods may be crucial to SARS’ investigation, with the assistance of the South African Police Service and the Directorate for Priority Crimes Investigation (Hawks), SARS seized relevant evidence from the vehicles.

“Similarly, the occupants of the residential property of Bullion Star’s director also refused SARS access to the property and to provide SARS with electronic equipment. The premises and telephone were believed to contain information vital to the investigation. SARS requested the assistance of South African Police Service (SAPS) to gain access to the premises and seized goods from the premises,” SARS said.

SARS has encouraged all taxpayers and traders to ensure that their tax and customs obligations are up to date and in compliance with the tax and customs laws.

“Furthermore, SARS would like to thank the SAPS and Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI) for working within the whole of government approach in making sure that these interventions were executed successfully,” SARS said. – SAnews.gov.za

Reduced travel benefits for ex-MPs Friday, April 8, 2022

A new travel policy for former Members of Parliament will see a significant reduction in the flight costs for all members, including former Executive Members and their spouses.

This follows the completion of Parliament’s policy on travel facilities for former Members of Parliament, including former Members of the Executive.

Parliamentary spokesperson, Moloto Mothapo, said the policy is a culmination of years of intensive work initiated by the Presiding Officers to mainly address unjustifiable costs driven by travel benefits provided to former MPs, including former Members of the Executive, who served prior to the 1994 democratic breakthrough and post 1994.

Mothapo said there are currently 209 former Members of the Executive, including their spouses, widows and widowers, who enjoy benefits, as defined in the Ministerial Handbooks from 1992 to 2007.

Mothapo said the groundwork, which also involved discussions with the Executive through the relevant Ministers around the development of the new policy framework, was initiated during the fourth Parliament.

“Numerous proposals were submitted for consideration over several years. However, with the executive facilities provided for former Members of the Executive in force, an alignment needed to be created in order to bring about an inclusive and equal dispensation across the board.

“The discussion in this regard resulted in a letter on 2 December 2019, from the Minister of Public Service and Administration, formally advising the Speaker of the National Assembly that the chapter on benefits for former Members of the Executive has been excluded from the Guide for Former Members of the Executive approved on 20 November 2019.”

Mothapo said the exclusion of a provision for former Members of the Executive from this policy gave new impetus to the parliamentary process of reviewing the travel policy and to bring about a single, integrated, cost effective and uniform Parliament-administered policy for all former Members, including those who served in the Executive.

“The process, as evidenced by the date of the letter from the Minister of Public Service and Administration, was initiated and driven by the Presiding Officers of Parliament, and was not at an instigation or under any pressure by any parliamentary political party, as claimed in the media,” Mothapo said.

Some of the key changes effected in the new policy:

  • Former Members of the Executive previously received single domestic business class flights per annum, with 48 for Ministers, 36 for Deputy Ministers, 24 for spouses of Formers Ministers, 18 for spouses of former Deputy Ministers and 12 for widows or widowers of former Minister's or Deputy Minister. The new policy allocates 12 single economy class air tickets per annum for all former Members, including former Executive Members and their spouses. The tickets are for domestic travel only.
  • The new policy defines a limit of five years for all former Members, regardless of the duration of service, as long as they completed a full parliamentary term, whereas former Members of the Executive previously enjoyed their facility for life. Tickets may not be accumulated and must be used in the year allocated, and those not used in the year applicable are forfeited.
  • While previously there was no criteria for former Members of the Executive to qualify for their facility, the new policy provides that former Members may only qualify if they complete a full term of Parliament.
  • Previously former Members of the Executive qualified for business class travel, based on provisions of the Ministerial Handbook. Now all former Members will travel only in economy class.

Mothapo noted that in the financial years 2015/16 to 2019/20, Parliament had spent a total of R46 124 000 on travel benefits of former Members of Parliament, including former Members of the Executive, with R7 426 million in 2015/16; R8 688 million in 2016/17; R7 934 million (2017/18), R10 698 million in 2018/19 and R11 378 million in 2019/20.

“Based on projections, applying the new policy provisions and informed by assumptions on future utilisation and flight costs, the estimated reduction in expenditure over the next five years is R22 million.

“Parliament is confident that, based on the actuarial assessment and projections conducted, the new travel policy will undoubtedly significantly reduce the funding required for this purpose, which lifts the burden from the public purse, in light of the socio-economic hardships confronting South Africans,” Mothapo said.

To read the new travel policy of Parliament, follow the link: https://www.parliament.gov.za/storage/app/media/Docs/atc/c93fec8c-24a7-4352-8b86 e8197b901e84.pdf. – SAnews.gov.za

SA abstains on resolution to suspend Russia from Human Rights Council

The Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Dr Naledi Pandor, says constructive solutions focused on addressing the humanitarian situation and promoting peaceful dialogue remains imperative in the Ukraine.

Pandor was briefing media on Friday on South Africa’s approach and position to the conflict in the Ukraine.

This comes after the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution to suspend Russia from the Human Rights Council on Thursday.

The resolution received a two-thirds majority in the 193-member General Assembly, with 93 countries voting in favour, 24 against and 58 abstaining. South Africa has again abstained on the resolution.

This is the third resolution since 2 March 2022 tabled on the Ukraine at the UN General Assembly, on which South Africa abstained.

Pandor said South Africa is not indifferent to what is going on in the Ukraine, and remains deeply concerned about the continuing conflict, the loss of lives and deteriorating humanitarian situation.

She said South Africa, countries on the continent and several other members of the Global South who are affected by the conflict, have sought to assert their independent, non-aligned views on the matter.

“We have resisted becoming embroiled in the politics of confrontation and aggression that has been advocated by the powerful countries. Instead, we have promoted peaceful resolution of the conflict through dialogue and negotiation.” 

She said one of their concerns is the “seeming lack of balanced evidence in the United Nations”.

"There needs to be consistency in the approach of the international community to countries that violate international law.

“The international community must focus on finding a sustainable solution. It will not be found in isolating one party or bringing it to its knees,” Pandor said.

The Minister reiterated that President Cyril Ramaphosa conveyed to all key stakeholders that South Africa stands ready to support the peaceful resolution of the conflict in the Ukraine, with a view to bringing the violence to an end as speedily as possible.

“We are fully cognisant of the deliberate opposition to our call for peace and negotiations, and continue to hold the view that in the end, negotiations will end the conflict,” she said.

As a matter of urgency, Pandor called for a cessation of hostilities, which would be the first step in a comprehensive response to the humanitarian crisis. 

“We continue to stress that dialogue, mediation and diplomacy is the only path to end the current conflict. As we stated in the General Assembly yesterday, wars end when dialogue begins and wars endure when there is no dialogue,” she said. – SAnews.gov.za

Government monitoring tensions in Diepsloot

President Cyril Ramaphosa has expressed concern at tensions in Diepsloot, adding that government is monitoring the situation.

Speaking on the sidelines of the 2022 Heads of Mission Conference (HoMC22) on Thursday, the President told journalists that government is keeping a close eye on the situation.

“We will not condone any form of criminality which results in the death of anyone. It is not acceptable and we will take action to deal with it,” he said.

The President said government is engaging with the community.

 “We are continuing to keep a very close eye and also engaging with various members of the community because we don’t want that situation to turn into an ugly one. 

“So, we are consulting on all sides, the people who live there in Diepsloot and also listening very closely to their concerns but we will not condone any criminality,” the President said.

This as the South African Police Service (SAPS) heightened its deployment of specialised units and resources to restore law and order in the area. Extra resources were mobilised in the form of vehicles and boots on the ground following protests that erupted in the area on Wednesday.

In addition, a search is also underway for an unconfirmed number of suspects who allegedly used the protest as a cover-up for criminality and killed 44-year old Elvis Nyathi during the early hours of Thursday morning.

“Police were patrolling the area on Wednesday evening when they came across the incident where the suspects attacked the deceased and set him alight. It is reported that prior to the incident the group had been moving from house to house claiming to be searching for criminals and demanding either passports or money.

The deceased is said to have ran out of his house and the group gave chase, caught up with Nyathi and killed him. The suspects evaded arrest after fleeing the scene,” the police said in a statement on Thursday.

A multi-disciplinary task team of detectives is probing Nyathi’s killing. Anyone who may have information on the identity and whereabouts of the suspects, is urged to report by calling the Crime Stop number 08600 10111 or via the MySAPS app that can be downloaded onto any smartphone. All information will be treated with the strictest confidentiality.

It had been reported that seven people had been killed in the area over the course of the weekend.

“At this point, police can also confirm that according to Diepsloot SAPS record of reported cases, only five (05) murders were reported between Wednesday, 30 March and Sunday, 03 April 2022. These murders emanated from separate unrelated incidents and investigations are still underway to arrest the suspects. This is contrary to  the seven murders that have been reported in the media.”

Meanwhile, new National Commissioner of the SAPS, General Fannie Masemola has reiterated his commitment to ensure the rejuvenation of functional Community Policing Forums, and strengthening relations between communities and the local police.

“In response to the Diepsloot community's complaints about crime in the area and the ensuing protest, General Masemola, together with Police Minister, General Bheki Cele, have visited the area daily this past 48 hours, engaging with community leaders and community structures towards finding a lasting solution that will heighten the community's sense of feeling safe and secure,” said the SAPS.

The police cautioned members of the public against inciting violence and against taking the law into their own hands. –SAnews.gov.za

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