Wednesday, 06 March 2019

Cape Town: Hawks head Godfrey Lebeya says the directorate has deployed one of its members to attend the State Capture Commission daily to monitor some of the cases that the elite crime-fighting unit is investigating.

Lebeya said this when he briefed members of the Portfolio Committee on Police in Parliament on Wednesday.

Lebeya was appearing before the committee to provide a progress report on high profile cases.

He said while further details could not be provided at this stage in relation to some that are also being dealt with before the State Capture Commission, including the case of fraud, corruption and money laundering relating to the pre-payment made by Eskom to Tegeta for the purchasing of Optimum Coal Holdings, the Hawks had seconded an officer to the commission to monitor proceedings and to ensure they don’t miss out on any evidence.

“…Maybe just to hint that we seconded a colonel to the sitting at the commission so as that … not to miss anything that is happening at the commission but we will not be dealing,” he said.

Progress made on high profile cases

From Bosasa, VBS Mutual Bank and Steinhoff to an older investigation of fraud, corruption, money laundering and racketeering involving former President Jacob Zuma and arms manufacturer Thales South Africa, Lebeya said while some of the cases were still under investigation, some were due to return to court in the coming weeks.

He said the Bosasa investigation, where high-profile arrests of seven individuals were made in relation to an investigation of corruption, money laundering and fraud, will return to court on 27 March 2019.

It is alleged that the officials received and accepted gifts in the form of cash, they also allegedly received financial assistance in acquiring properties, acquiring motor vehicles from dealers, other assets and payments to travel agents for overseas travel.

Angelo Agrizzi, a former employee of Bosasa who also testified before the State Capture Commission, was among those that were arrested.

Bosasa changed its name to Africa Global Operations before subjecting itself to voluntary liquidation.

Lebeya said the one suspect could not be arrested because he is currently abroad and that a process to extradite him from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) will soon be initiated.

Lebeya said investigations were still ongoing on the matter involving Steinhoff International Holdings.

The allegations are that during the period from the 2015 financial year, Steinhoff submitted false, misleading or deceptive financial statements to attract investors in Contravention of Section 81 of the Financial Markets Act, 2012 (FMA).

When the allegation became known in December 2017, the value of the shares dropped significantly resulting to substantial prejudice to the investors.

While investigations were still ongoing in the VBS matter, the case of racketeering, trafficking in persons, grooming for sexual exploitation and rape against Nigerian Pastor Timothy Omotoso will return to court on 16 April 2019 where an application for the Judge to recuse himself from the case will be heard.

On the case of Fraud, Corruption, Money Laundering and Racketeering against former President Jacob Zuma and arms manufacturer Thales South Africa, Lebeya said arguments regarding the permanent stay of prosecution application are expected to be heard between 20 – 23 May 2019 in the Pietermaritzburg High Court.

Last week, the National Prosecuting Authority reportedly asked for an extension for the date to file its answering papers in the case because it was unable to meet the court-imposed deadline.

Calls for tougher action against illicit trade of cigarettes

Earlier on in the day, the committee called expressed a concern at the alarming rate in which the illicit trade of cigarettes was starting to dominate the tobacco market.

Franncios van der Merwe, the chairperson of the Tobacco Institute of Southern Africa, told members of the committee that after commissioning market research firm Ipsos to assess the penetration and impact of the illicit cigarette market in the tobacco industry, the results demonstrated that the market share of the illicit industry has grown to 42% in the informal market, up from 33% only three months previously.

The study also found that Illicit brands remain freely available in over 100 000 shops in the country and that RG, an brand from Gold Leaf Tobacco, retailed at an average price of R10 per packet of 20.

Van der Merwe said this showed that the brand was illicit as it retailed lower than the minimum collectible tax of R17.85 at the time the study was released, which meant that the manufacturers were not paying their excise duties.

He said illicit trade put the legitimate sector under strain and should big tobacco pull their investments from SA due to illicit trade, this will place 12 000 jobs in the tobacco value chain under threat.

He said based on annualised Ipsos Wave 2 data, the SA Revenue Service will lose at least R8 billion in collectible taxes in the next 12 months.

He called for tougher action against the illicit economy and added that cigarettes sold below the minimum collectible tax be banned and for the Finance Minister to introduce legislation to outlaw the sales.

Elphas Buthelezi, a member of the committee from the IFP, called for swift action to be taken to curb the trade, saying the availability of large volumes of cheap cigarettes makes it impossible for government to reduce the number of people who smoke.

He said a tuckshop owner recently told him that he had stopped selling Peter Stuyvesant and opted to sell RG because with Stuyvesent, he only sold about 20 sticks a month but with RG, he sold 10 boxes per day.

“That told me that so many people are smoking as a result of this cheap stuff…” – SAnews.gov.za