SARS led a search and seizure operation across five provinces yesterday in an attempt to bring down a coal-smuggling syndicate, reports The Citizen.

The operation was launched after SARS received information of tax-related crimes in Gauteng, Mpumalanga, KZN, the Free State and Limpopo.

SARS said the suspects involved in the diversion of high-grade coal include former Eskom employees. It added that the network of coal-smugglers is suspected of being made up of local and foreign nationals.

‘Coal trucks destined for power stations are diverted to designated coal yards where high-grade coal is replaced with low-grade or sub-standard product. The high-grade coal is then exported or sold to willing buyers. The low-grade coal is often blended with scrap or other materials and then delivered to power stations,’ said SARS.

Low-grade coal has been blamed for damaging infrastructure at some of Eskom’s power stations, leading to more severe bouts of load shedding across the country.

SARS also said the coal-smuggling syndicates have led to SA losing more than R500m.

The tax authority said it had established links between individuals and related entities and confirmed contraventions of tax laws, including the non-registration for income tax, failure to submit tax returns, the under-declaration of income, claiming undue VAT refunds, and making false submissions.

No arrests have been made at this stage.

SARS commissioner Edward Kieswetter called the operation a ‘massive breakthrough’.

Full report in The Citizen