Afro soul musician Ringo Madlingozi could face up to 15 years in jail or a hefty fine if he is found guilty of tax fraud and theft, said a tax lawyer on Sunday.
Madlingozi allegedly hasn’t been paying his employees’ Pay As You Earn (PAYE) to SARS, but has been deducting it from their salaries since 1999.
He reportedly owes SARS R1.5m in PAYE and R421693 in VAT.
A charge sheet, which The New Age has seen, shows that the star has been hit with more than 40 charges of theft by SARS. He appeared in the Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday and is expected to be back in court on 9 January 2014.
June Marks, a tax attorney, said tax fraud was common in South Africa.
She said that if found guilty, Madlingozi could end up paying three times what he originally owed in tax. Marks said for a minimum of R500000 of tax fraud, one could spend at least 15 years in jail.
However, Ringo’s employees would be protected and would not be in trouble with the law for not paying tax.
“It was the employer’s obligation to pay PAYE, they were under the impression that they were paying their taxes; it’s fraud,” said Marks.
Madlingozi declined to comment on the matter.
Since his debut solo album, Vukani, Madlingozi has been almost unstoppable in his climb up the music industry ladder.
He has scooped multiple awards for his albums, including South African Music Awards and Kora All African Music Awards, where, among others, he has won best male artist in southern Africa and the African continent.
Ringo Madlingozi seeks legal aid
Afro-pop king Ringo Madlingozi has pleaded with Legal Aid SA to provide him with free legal assistance because he says he’s too poor to afford his own lawyer.
The award-winning musician, who has sold hundreds of thousands of records during his 15-year career, is charged with theft and tax evasion.
He is accused of failing to pay more than R2 million in VAT and PAYE, deducted from employees’ salaries, over to the taxman.
Madlingozi is due back in court on January 9.
The National Prosecuting Authority has confirmed the artist is seeking legal aid.
Its spokesperson Nathi Mncube confirmed to City Press that the case had been postponed to January 9 so Legal Aid SA could process the musician’s application. He refused to comment on whether Madlingozi qualified for legal aid.
“It is not in the area of our jurisdiction to determine whether or not he qualifies for legal aid, so we cannot comment on that,” Mncube said.
On its website, Legal Aid SA says only people who earn less than R5 500 per month after tax qualify for their services.
An applicant’s own house and belongings must not be worth more than R300 000 and if they do not own a house, then the total value of all their belongings must not be more than R75 000.
Madlingozi’s application has shocked the industry.
A musician who spoke to City Press on condition of anonymity said: “We know that he is no longer selling and getting gigs like before but that does not mean he can’t afford his own lawyer because that man made a lot of money.”
Another musician said it was “shocking” that Madlingozi was seeking legal aid.
“We know that he divorced his wife but that did not financially set him back to that extent. It’s unbelievable, but then again, Afro-pop is no longer selling. When was the last time he released a hit?”
City Press repeatedly tried to get comment from Madlingozi, but was unable to do so at the time of going to press.