28/11/2017 08:49 SAST | Updated 28/11/2017 12:50 SAST

SARS: Only Authorities Can Investigate Criminal Allegations Against Makwakwa

SARS said it could only investigate alleged misconduct, and not criminality, over payments into Makwakwa's account.

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Previous finance minister Nhlanhla Nene (C) with Commissioner of the South African Revenue Service Tom Moyane (L) and former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas.

SARS has attempted to push back against allegations that it let its second in command, Jonas Makwakwa, off lightly. Makwakwa returned to work this month after being cleared of wrongdoing by an internal probe. He was suspended after the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) found 75 suspicious cash deposits into his and his girlfriend's accounts, from 2010-2017.

According to Business Day, SARS said on Monday that the internal probe looked only at whether Makwakwa was guilty of misconduct, and left questions of criminality to the Hawks to investigate.

The FIC reportedly said that Makwakwa and his girlfriend, Kelly-Anne Elskie, "may have been involved in or facilitated corrupt activities".

Daily Maverick reported at the time that a preliminary investigation by the FIC indicated that the payments could have emanated from the Department of Water and Sanitation. The issue was reported to SARS Commissioner Tom Moyane, who was bound by law not to disclose any information about the investigation into Makwakwa.

Moyane was legally bound to take steps to investigate whether the payments were the "proceeds of crime arising from corrupt activities" or "acts of money laundering". Moyane did not suspend Makwakwa at first, and allegedly disclosed the contents of the FIC report to him.

Once the allegations against Makwakwa were reported in the media, SARS appointed law firm Hogan Lovells to conduct an internal investigation, which found Makwakwa not guilty of misconduct.

SARS said the media had misrepresented the investigation, Business Day reported, as it did not understand the "difference between a misconduct investigation by an employer and a criminal investigation".

It was reported at the time that Hogan Lovells would investigate the matter", and SARS reportedly did not specify that this would exclude the FIC's allegations.

But on Monday, SARS reportedly said it could only investigate internal misconduct charges against Makwakwa, and that any criminal allegations had to be investigated by the authorities.

Chairperson of Parliament's portfolio committee on finance, Yunus Carrim, previously told Business Day that SARS should release the report that cleared Makwakwa due to the serious nature of the allegations against him and "the waning confidence in SARS".