SARS revival – Cape Town’s underworld shivers at assets seizure

CAPE TOWN — Institutional memory among journalists is a great boon to the transparency that the media can bring to a society, especially one brought to its knees by corporate and political criminals. This story is but one small example, the author a former Cape Times crime reporter and now a nationally acknowledged author and investigative journalist, Marianne Thamm. She joins the dots between an underworld arrest more blandly reported elsewhere and the gangster state that facilitated his and his accomplices continued tax avoidance and malfeasance. The history she connects the suspect to is something she was an intimate part of monitoring and reporting on in her days on Cape Town’s once widely-respected and staunch anti-apartheid main English-language daily newspaper. Former bouncer and underworld figure, Andre Naude and his office manager, Carol van der Westhuizen, are no longer the untouchables they once were. SARS’s new investigative units have been thawed out of their Zuptoid freeze and are turning the freeze-gun on tax dodgers and their billion-rand assets. It’s a sight for sore eyes and cause for hope as we slowly return to the accepted norm of running a clean ship able to deliver a healthy economy. Story courtesy of the Daily Maverick. – Chris Bateman

As new SARS boss signs in, the Illicit Economy Unit swoops on Lifman associate Andre Naude over R64m tax bill

By Marianne Thamm

It is clear SARS and its units, reconstituted under newly appointed Commissioner Edward Kieswetter, are back in business and will slowly make their way up the feeding chain of the tax dodgers and criminal overlords.

Members of the Western Cape SARS Illicit Economy Unit swooped on a former bouncer and underworld figure Andre Naude’s Bellville premises on the morning of 5 April, 2019, attaching all moveable assets after a writ of execution was issued by the Western Cape High Court.

Naude, a veteran of the violent and lucrative nightclub security and protection industry in Cape Town, also owns Nat Construction. The raid on Friday was in relation to this company and its R50m tax bill.

Over and above this, Naude personally, says SARS, owes the taxman R14-million.

The Illicit Economy Unit attached all moveable assets at three of Naude’s personal properties in Bellville and Durbanville as well as at the Nat Construction offices in the same suburb.

Naude’s office manager Carol van der Westhuizen’s tax debt is stated by SARS as totalling R1,486,085.73. Van der Westhuizen’s home in Plumstead, as well as five sectional title properties in Sea Point, were listed in the execution order.

SARS obtained the execution order on 28 March and the writ was issued by the court on 5 April.

The move on Friday is an indication that the Illicit Economy Unit, under SARS senior detective Keith Hendrickse, is back up and running after being kneecapped, along with similar units in other regions, in the Moyane years. It was acting commissioner Mark Kingon who revived both the Illicit Economy and the Large Business units.

Hendrickse has, for several years, probed the business interests of the politically connected Western Cape underworld figure Mark Lifman and various associates including Naude and Jerome “Donkie” Booysen, CEO/COO and CFO of the Sexy Boys gang.

Project All Out was the title Hendrickse used to register the investigation, which took years to complete and included audit firm PricewaterhouseCoopers and a team of lawyers.

At least 35 of Lifman’s close corporations, companies and a trust were investigated.

Jacques Pauw, in his book The President’s Keepers, sets out Lifman’s empire which includes “more than 100 accounts at four different banks, trendy clothing stores, an extensive property portfolio and at least 14 luxury vehicles. Among his assets was an upmarket brothel, the Embassy. SARS also found a bank account with more than R20m in cash and 14 luxury vehicles, including three Porsche Cayennes. SARS penalised Lifman for a host of infringements, including tax evasion, failing to submit tax returns, making false disclosures and instructing his tax advisers to miscalculate his tax”.

It led, in the end, to Lifman being slapped with a R400m tax bill which the businessman spent the following year challenging in court. Lifman lost and offered to settle for R30m.

SARS declined the offer.

Then suddenly, to everyone’s surprise, the State Security Agency entered stage left.

The President’s Keepers. More of Zapiro’s magic available at www.zapiro.com.

Pauw sets out in The President’s Keepers how on 26 February 2015, Sonto Kudjoe, Director-General of the State Security Agency, “wrote to Moyane personally and pleaded with him to reject Lifman’s overtures”.

“Kudjoe referred Moyane to an interdepartmental task team that was established in October 2012 to bring down Lifman. The team consisted of members of the State Security Agency, the Hawks, the National Prosecuting Authority, the police and the Financial Intelligence Centre.

Said Kudjoe: ‘It has been confirmed that the mentioned individual, Mark Roy Lifman, is involved in criminal activities including transnational organised crime.”

She said this encompassed intimidation, corruption, cigarette smuggling, drug trafficking, paedophilia and money laundering,” wrote Pauw.

SARS was conspicuously absent from the 2012 “interdepartmental task team” and so it was no surprise to find that six years after the establishment of the task team, Lifman remained a free man.

***

The relationship between Naude and Lifman was fertilised in the trenches of Cape Town’s fabulously lucrative “club security” economy.

It has been this way for years – since the 1980s in fact.

Rival security companies, owned by a rotation of underworld figures (the rotation happens as kingpins and henchmen are targeted for assassination), have steadily and violently captured large swathes of territory in the city, one of the world’s premier tourist destinations.

From shore to shining shore, in the abalone and crayfish-filled ocean itself, from mountain to mountain, from dry Karoo veld to the lush forests of the southern Cape, the gangs of Cape Town are an integral part of the region’s illicit economy.

None of this could have happened without friends and connections – high-up politicians and officials, including some in SAPS.

Lifman and former ANC Western Cape Chair Marius Fransman were thick, for example, with the businessman attending a birthday celebration for then-president Jacob Zuma at Vytjieskraal in 2014. Lifman was photographed with Fransman at the event.

In this seething underworld, mash-up are a fair sprinkling of Russians, Moroccans, Serbs, Turks, an Englishman and of course brothers Colin and Jerome Booysen, Jerome being the big cheese in the Sexy Boys gang.

There’s bad blood between the brothers, who now belong to rival camps violently vying for control of the night-time economy and lucrative drug trade. It’s like Game of Thrones without the snow and set at the foot of Table Mountain.

Lifman’s rival is Nafiz Modack, a new player who strode into town after the assassination of Cyril Beeka in 2011 (Google him, long story). Modack has made quick headway and was photographed meeting with Duduzane Zuma in Cape Town in 2018.

We leave it there.

Back in 2011 Naude and Lifman suffered a minor setback when they were slapped with more than 300 charges for running a security outfit that had not been registered with the Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority.

They were later acquitted on all counts.

This seemed to be a pattern in Lifman’s high-profile life in Cape Town. In 2009, he walked free after facing charges of indecently assaulting seven boys and attempting to murder their pimp.

In 2015, enter Tom Moyane, waving his magic Bain and Co’s “new operating model” wand.

Lifman’s fortune (along with a few other alleged criminal deplorables) begins to take a turn for the better.

SARS was so willing to engage Lifman that the taxman’s auditor, Gavin Cairns, offered to head on over to Lifman’s home to conduct the “review”, instead of how it’s usually done, at the SARS offices.

The cops?

Well let’s just say some are in with the bad guys, some are out, but mostly the bad guys play the system.

Magistrates and prosecutors?

Calls are made, dockets go missing, charges are dropped. Lifman and Modack walk free.

A community of lawyers feeds and survives on the almost constant court appearances of a familiar list of underworld figures from both factions as well as their “associates”. Some of these lawyers don’t make it out alive.

Like Pete Mihalik, assassinated in 2018 while dropping his eight-year-old son off at an exclusive private school in Sea Point by two hitmen hired in KwaZulu-Natal. Mihalik was one of these “go-to” lawyers for the underworld.

Minister of Police, Bheki Cele, told the nation he believed Mihalik’s brazen assassination in broad daylight was linked to that criminal catch-all, “the taxi industry”.

Before Mihalik’s murder, lawyer Noorudien Hassan was shot in the driveway of his Crawford home in 2016. Hassan had defended a number of high-profile figures including Western Cape businessman Irshaad Laher, who has been charged for racketeering and who is still embroiled in a High Court trial.

Laher was charged with gun dealer Alan Raves for selling about 2,000 firearms destined for destruction to gangsters in the Western Cape with the help of former SAPS Colonel Chris Prinsloo.

From the moment he was appointed in 2014, Moyane began to dismantle several units in SARS, like Hendrickse’s, that had spent years and a fortune hunting down criminal tax dodgers.

We all know that in the end, notorious American businessman and gang boss Al Capone was tripped up by his tax matters. After seven years of impunity, Capone was sentenced to an 11-year jail sentence in the late 1930s.

Where law enforcement agencies and the justice system have been corrupted, it is often up to a country’s revenue service to corner corrupt elected officials and crime bosses who control them.

In 2018, Hendrickse told the Nugent Commission of Inquiry into SARS that the closing down of his project “prevented SARS from collecting one cent (from Lifman) for two years… That was to my mind a deliberate attempt to derail the process. We were stopped in our tracks.”

In August 2018, Hendrickse set out in detail how the cosy relationship between Lifman and SARS evolved after his (Hendrickse’s) removal from the project.

In 2009 Hendrickse had helped to establish the national projects office in the Western Cape. The office zoned in on organised crime, drug lords, gang bosses, abalone smuggling, rhino and elephant poaching, basically every known threat to the human and animal kingdom.

In 2016 Moyane and his second-in-command, Jonas “ATM” Makwakwa, presented Bain and Co’s bold plans for a new SARS. It was then that Hendrickse realised he was not part of the new organogram and was ordered to hand over all the projects his team had been working on to a new team headed by one of Moyane’s blunt instruments, senior investigator Yegan Mundie.

Without naming Mundie, Hendrickse testified to the Nugent Commission how “a SARS official” requested him to hand over the Lifman case.

“I bumped into someone (Mundie) at the elevator,” Hendrickse said. “He told me he came to retrieve taxpayer X’s (Lifman’s) files.”

Hendrickse told the commission he had asked Mundie who had given him this authority, to which Mundie had replied that Moyane had given the order.

“I said you can’t have it,” Hendrickse testified, “the papers are a whole room full. I can’t just give it to you.”

One of Hendrickse’s colleagues, Pieter Engelbrecht, also told the Nugent Commission how his team, which had worked on high-profile cases including those of Dave King and the Mpisani matter involving KwaZulu-Natal clearing agent Robert Huang, had been hobbled.

Huang has an estimated R3-billion tax bill and the case is regarded as one of the largest tax-evasion investigations ever conducted by SARS. Huang had close business ties to Jacob Zuma’s nephew Khulubuse Zuma, and is also accused of bribing government officials.

Engelbrecht told the Nugent Commission that “it was made known to me I was not welcome at SARS; the aim was to get rid of me”.

Like Hendrickse, Engelbrecht had been demoted to a “senior specialist” — a term that came to be associated with officials Moyane and Makwakwa had tried to get rid of.

Mysterious “taxpayers” later opened four cases against Engelbrecht which he told the commission had been “spurious” and at least one had proved to be based on fabricated documents.

The raid on Naude on Friday should send shivers down a few spines of those who have for several years managed to wriggle out of the coils of justice. DM