Manuel confirms he's state witness in SARS investigative unit case

Trevor Manuel was commenting amid allegations of corruption related to COVID-19 relief and the procurement of protective equipment.

File: Trevor Manuel was commenting amid allegations of corruption related to COVID-19 relief and the procurement of protective equipment.

ANA

JOHANNESBURG - Former finance minister Trevor Manuel on Thursday said he is a witness and not a suspect in the case against three former senior South African Revenue Services (SARS) officials in connection with an investigative unit that was set up within the revenue service.

Ivan Pillay‚ Johann van Loggerenberg and Andries Janse van Rensburg are accused of bugging the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) offices in 2007. They face charges of corruption and contravention of the Rica Act.

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“I confirm that I had indeed provided the prosecution with a statement last year, under compunction of a subpoena issued in terms of section 205 of the Criminal Procedure Act. The prosecutor indicated at the time that I am a witness and that I am not regarded as a suspect," Manuel said in a statement released by African law firm ENSafrica.

"I confirm that if I am required to testify, I shall comply with my civic duty to do so. I am advised that as a potential State witness I should not comment on the merits of the charges against the accused, and in the circumstances I shall refrain from doing so. I am in any event not privy to the indictment.

"However, the fact that I am listed as one of the witnesses who may be called to testify for the prosecution should not, in the circumstances, be interpreted as an endorsement by me of the charges, or of the process adopted by the State in this matter.”

The three accused are expected back in court on June 18, with the matter being moved to the North Gauteng High Court

They were released on warning and told that failure to appear on their next court date would lead to their arrests.

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The Hawks said it was investigating the former Sars High-Risk Investigation Unit, as well as former SARS Commissioner Pravin Gordhan, for supposedly taking part in illegal interceptions and spying. Gordhan has repeatedly said the unit was set up legally and denied it took part in illegal activities, including the setting up of brothels.

The investigation has been tainted with allegations that it has been used as a political ploy against Gordhan, against whom the NPA was forced to drop charges in 2017.

KPMG, which had compiled a report into what was then called a "rogue unit" since withdrew its findings.