Two former customs auditors at the SA Revenue Service in Durban have been sentenced to three years direct imprisonment for corruption after they were caught red-handed with a cash bribe during a police operation last year.
In a statement on Tuesday, SARS said that Pranesh Maharaj from La Mercy and Reuben Moodley from Newlands West were sentenced on May 9. The two employees had resigned during an internal disciplinary process in August 2018.
The revenue collection agency's new Commissioner, Edward Kieswetter, welcomed the sentence in a statement.
"We have a zero tolerance for dishonesty and unlawfulness. As we forge ahead on a path of restoring a culture of integrity and service excellence in our institution, we would like to assure citizens that SARS will take harsh measures against employees who betray the public trust," he said.
R200 000 bribe
According to the tax agency, the pair acknowledged that they had issued a notice to a well-known KwaZulu-Natal businessman in February 2018, advising him of an imminent audit of companies where he was a director. SARS did not name the businessman. During a follow-up meeting, they solicited a bribe of R200 000 from him "to make his tax problems disappear".
Maharaj then contacted the businessman, said SARS, asking for an advance payment of R10 000, which was duly paid. Maharaj did not inform Moodley of this arrangement.
"The businessman, however, reported the matter to the police. A decision was taken to set up a police trap in terms of section 252A of the Criminal Procedures Act. The businessman provided the cash, which was divided into two envelopes, each containing R100 000," said SARS.
"The police pounced on the accused as they were walking away, after the businessman handed them the envelopes in the parking lot of the Standard Bank, Kingsmead Branch on 2 March 2018, as was arranged between them."
SARS said the Durban Regional Court also sentenced the two auditors to an additional two years imprisonment, conditionally suspended for five years. Maharaj offered to repay the R10 000 that was paid to him by the taxpayer.