20 January 2015 – SARS Enforcement and Customs Operations for December 2014

Pretoria, 20 January 2015 – The South African Revenue Service (SARS) is providing an update to the media and the public on its operations to combat crimes such as smuggling, fraud and abuse of the tax system for the month of December 2014.

The aim is to inform the public about the work SARS’ Customs and Enforcement teams do on a daily basis, to provide an indication of the prevalence of tax and customs-related offences in South Africa, and to illustrate the support SARS provides to other law enforcement agencies.

Interventions to combat Fraud and Corruption
SARS will combat any form of corruption, fraud and abuse of the tax system. The following cases can be reported for December 2014:

1. Mr Sandile Mthunywa appeared on 1 December 2014 in the Johannesburg Regional Court for final sentencing on 59 counts of tax fraud (having been found guilty on 4 August 2014. A tax practitioner, Mr Mthunywa submitted fraudulent tax returns on behalf of 66 clients – all of whom were Johannesburg Metro Councillors – for the periods 2002 to 2004. The loss to SARS was almost R1.3 million. He was sentenced to 5 years direct imprisonment.

2. On 2 December 2014 Somnjalose Trading cc and Mr David Nyambi pleaded guilty to multiple charges of VAT Fraud and theft in the Nelspruit Regional Court. A service provider to the Mpumalanga Provincial Department of Education, they received payments from the Department for services rendered, but failed to pay VAT to SARS. Somnjalose Trading was sentenced to a total fine of R110 000, wholly suspended for a period of 3 years. Mr Nyambi was sentenced to a fine of R90 000, also wholly suspended for a period of 3 years.

Customs Interventions
In the period from 1 to 31 December 2014, SARS Customs and Enforcement teams have:

1. Prevented just over 22kg cocaine (valued at over R6.4 million), and over 23kg ephedrine / crystal methamphetamine (valued at over R7 million) from entering the country. In all cases, the drugs seized and the individuals involved were handed over to the SAPS for further action. The drugs were seized in a number of different interventions, and included:
a. 13.8kg crystal methamphetamine, valued at over R4.1 million, carried in the luggage of a male passenger arriving in Johannesburg from Mumbai.
b. 11kg cocaine, valued at over R1.7 million, carried by a male passenger transiting through Johannesburg from Sao Paulo to Pointe Noire (in the Republic of Congo). The drugs were concealed in tubes of silicone sealant in the passenger’s luggage.

c. 9.64kg cocaine, valued at almost R2.9 million, carried by a female passenger arriving in Johannesburg from Mumbai, hidden in false compartments in her luggage.d. 6kg cocaine, valued at over R1.7 million, carried by a male passenger transiting through Johannesburg from Sao Paulo to Kinshasa. The drugs were concealed in backpacks carried in his suitcase.e. 1.64kg cocaine, valued at over R470 000, carried by a male passenger transiting through Johannesburg from Sao Paulo to Lagos. The drugs were concealed in the soles of shoes carries in his suitcase.

f. 1.44kg cocaine, valued at R450 000, carried by a female passenger arriving in Durban from Sao Paulo. The drugs were found after Detector Dog “Jersey” reacted too her luggage.g. 1.14kg cocaine, valued at over R320 000, carried by a male passenger travelling from Sao Paulo to Johannesburg (having transited in Dubai). The drugs were concealed in toiletry bottles and roll on containers in his luggage.

2. Seized a number of other items coming into the country, including
a. 1332 Master Cases and 6173 Cartons (over 14.5 million individual cigarettes) of illicit cigarettes, valued at over R25.6 million. Of these,
i. 1150 Master Cases were seized at the Port of Durban in a joint operation with SAPS Crime Intelligence. They were concealed in a container arriving on a ship originating in Dubai.
ii. 101 Master Cases were seized at Beit Bridge border post concealed in a truck and trailer carrying wheat bran, crossing into South Africa from Zimbabwe
iii. 6100 cartons were handed over from the SANDF to the SARS team at Beit Bridge after operations along the border line with Zimbabwe
iv. 81 Master Cases were found in a concealed compartment in an “empty” truck crossing into South Africa at the Beit Bridge border post.
b. As previously reported, 54 packs of mining explosives, 150 detonators and 9 detonator cords (value at over R320 000), carried by a female bus passenger entering South Africa at Beit Bridge.
c. As previously reported, 5.2kg ivory, valued at over R16 000, concealed in the engine compartment of a bus crossing into South Africa from Zimbabwe at Beit Bridge
d. A parcel declared as a gift of “Peruvian Torch Cactus seeds, soil and growing chemicals”, in an incoming parcel at a King Shaka International Airport courier agency. It was established that the fully grown, harvested and dried cactus can be processed into a narcotic that acts as a hallucinogen. The parcel was seized for the Department of Agriculture. 
e. 1kg “magic mushrooms”, valued at R3000, in an incoming parcel at an OR Tambo International courier agency. They were found after SARS Detector Dogs “Chocky” and “Bruno” reacted to the parcel. 
3. Prevented a number of items from leaving the country, including:
a. 31 travellers cheques, with a value of over USD 20 000, in a courier parcel from South Africa to the Netherlands.
b. 25 blank Mozambican visas, in a courier parcel from South Africa to Kenya.
4. Over 454kg of khat, valued at over R305 000, was seized both entering (from Ethiopia) and leaving (destined for the UK, Netherlands, USA, Canada and Ethiopia) South Africa.