Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Fraud Charges Are Patently Without Merit — Gordhan
11 OCTOBER 2016, 20:28

FINANCE Minister Pravin Gordhan says the legal proceedings against him have been "contaminated" by abuse for political ends.

"It is most unfortunate that the Hawks have, once again, chosen to initiate legal proceedings at a moment that appears calculated to maximise the damage inflicted on the economic well-being of South Africans and essential processes of government," Gordhan said in a statement from the Treasury.

Gordhan said he would submit himself to a "legitimate process of the law" and reiterated that he would "co-operate fully and in an exemplary manner in the execution of all legal requirements that are placed upon him". He said his legal team had been in communication with the Hawks to "provide clear communication channels in the event that any further legal proceedings" were initiated. Despite this, he said the Hawks chose to issue the summons at his home on Tuesday morning and then at the offices of the National Treasury.

"Shortly thereafter, and again without the courtesy of a prior indication, the National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) convened a press conference to unveil a set of charges that are patently without merit," he said.

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) on Tuesday announced that Gordhan has been issued with a summons to appear in court in November on fraud charges related to his approval of early retirement for former deputy South African Revenue Service (SARS) commissioner Ivan Pillay in 2010, during his first term as finance minister.

Gordhan has been under investigation by the Hawks mainly over the alleged rogue unit at SARS, established during his tenure as SARS commissioner. He has maintained that the unit’s establishment was above board and that it had ministerial approval.

In the statement Gordhan said NPA boss Shaun Abrahams dwelled "extensively" on allegations around the SARS investigative unit before turning to the summons. The summons was concerned with matters of an "administrative, not criminal, nature.

"This is a moment where all South Africans need to ask whose interests these people in the Hawks, the NPA and the NDPP are advancing. Where do they get their political instructions from and for what purpose.

"I intend to continue doing my job. The cause of defending ethical leadership in government and throughout society is too important to allow ourselves to be deterred by this kind of harassment. The fight against corruption, maladministration, and waste of public resources will continue," he said.

In a separate statement, Gordhan’s attorney Tebogo Malatji said the minister was taking counsel on bringing the matter to a speedy conclusion. Malatji cited the fraud charge against Gordhan as a "difficult matter" as the minister was first in May advised that he was not a suspect. He was then in August requested to provide a warning statement indicating that he had contravened the Public Finance Management Act, that he was guilty of corruption in terms of the Prevention of Corrupt Activities Act and that had contravened the National Strategic Intelligence Act.

However, the charges he now faces are fraud and alternatively theft relating to Pillay’s early retirement. "Fraud is defined as "the unlawful and intentional making of a misrepresentation which causes actual prejudice or which is potentially prejudicial to another", Malatji said.

"In order to succeed with proving the crime of fraud, the state must establish the elements of the crime which are defined as first, a misrepresentation, second, prejudice or potential prejudice to another, third, unlawfulness and lastly an intention to so prejudice."

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