SA’s multinational tobacco dealer, Martin Fraser Wingate-Pearse, has been ordered to pay Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan a huge sum for legal costs for alleging that he was part of a ‘rogue unit’ while SARS Commissioner.

The Star reports Wingate-Pearse, who is also co-director of Carlinix, initially made the allegations against Gordhan and former SARS officials Ivan Pillay and Johan van Loggerenberg in his review application in the Gauteng High Court (Johannesburg) in September 2015.

This was after SARS conducted a search and seizure at his house in April 2005, and the revenue services obtained several documents showing he was not tax compliant in his tobacco and clothing businesses.

After several fruitless legal battles, in September 2015, he filed papers in the Gauteng High Court (Johannesburg) arguing that he was a victim of SARS’ ‘covert intelligence unit’.

He alleged the unit was established to conduct illegal covert intelligence operations, and that Van Loggerenberg had conducted covert surveillance operations concerning him, and that he intercepted and monitored his communications.

In April this year, Pillay and Van Loggerenberg filed an application to admit the findings of the presidential commission of inquiry headed by retired Judge Robert Nugent pertaining to a ‘rogue unit’ in SARS. The matter was then set down for trial on 20 May. But, in a surprise move six days before the scheduled trial, Wingate-Pearse gave notice withdrawing his allegations against Gordhan, Pillay and Van Loggerenberg. 

The Star report says despite the withdrawal on the main application, Judge Pieter Meyer rejected Wingate-Pearse’s version, saying the alleged unit had been established in 2007, while his house had been raided in November 2004. As reported yesterday, Meyer also said the Nugent Inquiry had made ‘findings in its final report that supported SARS’ stance that Wingate-Pearse’s allegations about the existence of a rogue unit within the ranks of SARS are without a factual basis’.

Wingate-Pearse was ordered to pay the costs of Gordhan and SARS separately. He also lost his tax challenge for filing his papers after more than 10 years.

Full report in The Star (subscription needed)

Wingate-Pearse v Commissioner for the SARS