Malema’s friend fights taxprobe

2012-08-05 09:39
Xolani Mbanjwa
Julius Malema’s business partner, Lesiba Gwangwa, has stepped up the fight to have an inquiry into his tax affairs set aside.

Gwangwa has approached the North Gauteng High Court to stop a hearing by the South African Revenue Service (Sars) into his businesses and family trust that he calls a “witch-hunt”.

This week he filed papers in court, in which he also reveals that his former accountant, Seraj Ravat, has turned against him.

The receiver is investigating 15 suspected breaches of the law dating back to March 2005, including tax evasion.

In answering court papers, the receiver states that if they give Gwangwa all the documentation he asks for, he may “destroy or alter” evidence.

Gwangwa is a benefactor of the ANC Youth League and is head of On-Point Engineers, SGL Engineering Projects, Guilder Investments and Segwalo Consulting Engineers.

 All these companies are linked to Malema, the youth league’s former president.

Malema resigned as director of these companies, but still benefits from On-Point through his Ratanang Family Trust’s shareholding in the company.

Gwangwa has now filed an urgent application and the case has been set down for Tuesday.

His companies have received lucrative Limpopo government tenders that are currently under investigation by the Hawks, the Special Investigating Unit and the Public Protector.

At the core of Gwangwa’s application is the refusal by Advocate Piet Marais, the presiding officer in the Sars inquiry, to provide him with a copy of Ravat’s testimony.

 Ravat handled Gwangwa’s tax affairs for the past six years, Gwangwa states in his application.

When Ravat began his testimony on April 26, he told Marais that he was “uncomfortable” with testifying in the presence of Gwangwa and his legal team and that he had received threatening phone calls that made him feel unsafe.

This prompted Marais to instruct Gwangwa and his legal team to leave the inquiry until Ravat was done with his testimony.

Gwangwa argues that Marais’ refusal to allow him to attend the inquiry and to furnish him with a copy of Ravat’s transcribed testimony is against provisions of the Income Tax Act which entitles him to be present during the testimony.

In his opposing affidavit, the receiver’s senior investigator Pieter Engelbrecht contends that Gwangwa’s application was merely an “attempt to delay or frustrate the Sars investigation and specifically in an attempt to prevent Sars in the carrying out its duties”.