Caught on tape: Tax boss and drug dealer

Cosy liaison with head of Sars revealed in jobs-for-pals scandal

sarsheadSA Revenue Service (Sars) boss Oupa Magashula is at the centre of a jobs-for-pals scandal involving a convicted drug dealer who is allegedly a police informant. In a clandestine recording laced with sexual innuendo, a copy of which City Press has in its possession, Magashula and Panganathan “Timmy’’ Marimuthu offer a 28-year-old woman from Marimuthu’s charismatic church a R700 000-a-year Sars post. Sars officials this week confirmed the authenticity of the recording, but claim their boss’ hands are clean and Marimuthu set him up.

Marimuthu, a convicted Mandrax dealer and businessman, is currently facing an intense tax investigation into his affairs.

The officials, who were delegated to represent Magashula, said the tape had been used by Marimuthu in a smear and blackmail campaign to force Sars to back off.

City Press has established through two independent sources that the compromising recording was made by Crime Intelligence operatives.

The recording, which was made in 2010, features the voices of Magashula, Marimuthu and a young woman known only as “Nosipho”.

On it, Magashula is heard discussing a R700?000-a-year job with Nosipho, as he and Marimuthu trade jokes and banter.

Marimuthu identified Magashula on the tape as a “mate of mine”, while the Sars commissioner calls him “my brother Timmy”.

Sars is previously on record denying that Marimuthu held any sway over its boss after he last year reportedly claimed to have Magashula in his pocket.

The Sunday Times reported that Sars had sent a warning letter to Marimuthu, but the existence of the tape has never been revealed publicly – until now.

This week, Sars spokesperson Adrian Lackay confirmed the recording, but rejected allegations of a friendship between Magashula and Marimuthu, or that Magashula had organised jobs for Marimuthu’s associates (see sidebar for full Sars comment).

Lackay said the conversation was recorded without Magashula’s knowledge at a restaurant in Durban North and it now appeared that parts of it were being used – out of context – for a range of “questionable activities by various persons”.

Sars said Nosipho was never appointed at the service.

Marimuthu declined to comment on the recording, but earlier told City Press he was dealing with the tax investigation through legal channels.

He also denied being an agent for Crime Intelligence and claimed he was taking legal action over these claims.

Sars first became aware of the recording when a Marimuthu associate who was charged for tax evasion tried to blackmail both Sars and the National Prosecuting Authority with ­the tape.

But he failed to produce the recording and was convicted of fraud for failing to pay VAT.

The source of Marimuthu’s wealth is an enigma. He lives in a luxury Umhlanga apartment and is known to enjoy a fleet of supercars, including a Bentley, which was joked about with Magashula on the recording.

City Press exposed Marimuthu last year as a key figure in the looting of the crime intelligence “slush fund”, or secret services account.

Two senior Hawks colonels investigated the complicity of Crime Intelligence chief Lieutenant General Richard Mdluli and his cronies in the looting of the unit’s secret fund.

During this investigation, they discovered that Marimuthu was a crime intelligence agent.

Their affidavits detailing the role of Marimuthu in Crime Intelligence was submitted to court last year in order to obtain a search warrant.

They said crime intelligence paid Marimuthu R300 000 to influence his friend, then police commissioner Bheki Cele, to secure a steady cash flow to the police spy unit.

The Hawks investigators said Marimuthu was registered as a crime intelligence agent and paid R50 000 a month.

Marimuthu had also leased several properties to crime intelligence for which he earned another R250 000 monthly.

Crime Intelligence also appointed at least five of his family members as officers in the unit and two girlfriends as clerks, the affidavits said.

The Marimuthu family had been paid almost R2 million from the secret fund, according to the Hawks investigators.

The Magashula recording was made during an operation by Crime Intelligence to monitor Cele’s calls and those of his close associates over three months, two sources said.

The Hawks are already investigating this interception on suspicion that it was done illegally.

Marimuthu was later given a copy of the recording of his telephone conversation involving Magashula.

Sources say that since then, Marimuthu has claimed he has evidence of a close friendship with Magashula which made him untouchable.

“Timmy is a convicted drug dealer. What was the commissioner of Sars doing associating with him? How could he be offering people jobs on the commissioner’s behalf?

“It’s very dangerous for a person with this kind of criminal background to have this level of access and influence,” commented one intelligence source.

Marimuthu was convicted of dealing in Mandrax in 1992 and sentenced to an effective three years’ imprisonment.

His appeal failed, but he never served a day of his sentence. Evidence was produced at the Jali Commission in 2002 that Marimuthu bribed officials to avoid going to prison.

Sars responds

Sars commissioner Oupa Magashula and Durban businessman Timmy Marimuthu had met only twice and there was no friendship between the two, says Sars.

Sars spokesperson Adrian Lackay confirmed the recording was authentic, but denied impropriety by Magashula.

Lackay said Sars was aware of Marimuthu’s claims of having influence over the national commissioner, but regarded them as defamatory and devoid of truth.

Lackay said Marimuthu was nothing but an “information pedlar” who used his “association with influential people, some concocted, some real, to further his own ambitions and standing”.

Magashula was meeting someone in the Durban restaurant when he was approached by Marimuthu, said Lackay.

Marimuthu asked Magashula to speak to a friend who needed help and passed him his phone. The commissioner had not known the conversation was recorded.

Lackay said Marimuthu attempted to contact Magashula again and invited him to his 50th birthday party.

Magashula declined the invitation and had never attempted to contact the Durban businessman again.

Lackay said Magashula was not involved in the appointment of officials and, when he was approached by someone, his standard response was to request that the candidate email his or her CV to him.

He would then refer these to the human resources department.

Lackay reiterated that Magashula never made an offer of employment to Nosipho, but had asked her to email her CV.

“Sars has no reason to doubt the integrity of the Sars commissioner in either his professional or private life,” Lackay said.

– Paddy Harper, Jacques Pauw and Thanduxolo Jika