The South African Revenue Service (Sars) has searched the homes of employees in the gold and banking sectors as part of its investigations and audits into illicit financial flows and illicit trade in the gold, alcohol, clothing, cigarette and tobacco sectors.
Sars said its Syndicated Tax and Customs Crime Division has inspected and conducted search and seizure operations at entities in KwaZulu-Natal, the Western Cape and Gauteng.
It said the operations were initiated after potential discrepancies were identified in customs declarations and tax returns, as well as bank statements that could not be relied on.
One of the businesses targeted was gold refinery and registered exporter Bullion Star.
Sars said that in contrast to Bullion Star’s previous returns, its VAT return for February 2022 reflected a refund of R13.9 million. Before the end of January 2022, Bullion Star rarely exported any goods, but during February, Bullion Star exported unwrought gold in excess of R126m, Sars said.
As a result of this deviation, Sars selected Bullion Star for a tax audit, and a search warrant was executed to obtain information about the goods sold and exported by Bullion Star.
The warrant was executed at three premises. However, Bullion Star refused to grant Sars access to its business premises and the vehicles on its premises.
It said security video footage showed that goods were removed from the business premises and put into vehicles before Sars gained access to the property.
Sars seized the evidence from the vehicles with the assistance of the South African Police Service and the Directorate for Priority Crimes Investigation (Hawks).
Sars was also refused access to the home of Bullion Star’s director, and the occupants also refused to provide Sars with electronic equipment.
With the assistance of the SAPS, Sars entered the property and seized items it believed were vital to the investigation.
Sars commissioner Edward Kieswetter said the organisation and the government were committed to combatting illicit trade and criminal economic activities.
“Those persons that systematically and deliberately set out to deprive what is due to the fiscus through fraudulent and other non-compliant activities will be confronted and dealt with in terms of the law. This kind of conduct will be made hard and costly,” he said.