The Hawks and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) are reviving the mainly discredited SARS “rogue unit” allegations by criminally charging some of the unit’s former members.

Ivan Pillay, Johann van Loggerenberg, and Andries Janse van Rensburg were on Friday issued summons to appear in the Pretoria Regional Court on April 9 on charges of corruption and contravention of the Regulation of Interception of Communications and Provision of Communication-Related Information Act (RICA) .

It is well known that the Hawks have been investigating the former SARS High Risk Investigation Unit, as well as former Sars Commissioner Pravin Gordhan, for supposedly taking part in illegal interceptions and spying. The investigation has been fraught with allegations that it has been used as a political tool against Gordhan. 

With the charging of Pillay and Van Loggerenberg, many are wondering if the next target of the NPA will be Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan.

The Hawks investigation into Gordhan’s alleged role in the so-called “rogue” intelligence unit at SARS is believed to have centred around “Project Sunday Evenings”.

In the list of questions which the Hawks sent Gordhan in 2016 was a specific question asking about the allegedly illicit spying operation.

Hawks spokesman Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi confirmed the summonses had been issued.

“Yes, they have been served today on allegations of contravention of the Rica Act and allegations of corruption,” he said.

Mulaudzi told News24 that two of the summonses were served in Pretoria, and one to a legal representative of the third person, in Cape Town.

That person could not be served directly because they were travelling, so a legal representative received it. Mulaudzi dismissed speculation that Gordhan would be served a summons too as a rumour.

“There is no such,” he said. 

News24 understands that SARS commissioner Tom Moyane and beleaguered SARS second in command Jonas Makwakwa are two of the state’s witnesses. 

Among the series of articles which ran in the Sunday Times newspaper in 2014 around the rogue unit were articles about Project Sunday Evenings, an alleged spy operation which supposedly saw members of the SARS “rogue unit” plant surveillance equipment inside the offices of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) in Pretoria.

The articles were later discredited by the Press Ombudsman and the paper retracted some of them.

The alleged bugging occurred in 2007 according to the newspaper and was allegedly sanctioned by the then SARS deputy commissioner Ivan Pillay.

Project Sunday Evenings was allegedly carried out by Andries “Skollie” Janse van Rensburg, a former intelligence operative who first headed the SARS unit that would later be accused of executing “rogue” projects.

The summons make it clear that Pillay and Van Rensburg are being charged for contravention of the RICA act, for the unlawful interception of communications.

“In that during the period June 2007 until November 2007 and at or near Silverton, Pretoria Pillay and van Rensburg did unlawfully and intentionally procure Mr Helgard Lombard and/or authorise Mr Lombard to intercept communication within the offices of the Directorate of Special Operations (DSO), and those of the National Prosecution Authority (NPA) without an interception direction issued by the designated judge in terms of the Regulation of Interception of Communications and Provision of Communication-Related Information Act, Act 70 of 2002 and thereby contravening the said provisions of the Act,” the summons read.

Pillay and van Loggerenberg were also accused of contravening the Prevention and Combatting of Corrupt Activities (POCA) Act as well as corruption.

The charge sheet said that in August or September 2008, at or near the SARS offices in Brooklyn, “Pillay and Van Loggerenberg directly or indirectly gave or agreed to give Mr Lombard gratification, to wit cash in the amount of approximately R100 000 whether for the benefit of himself or for the benefit of another person, to act in a manner that amounts to the illegal, dishonest, unauthorised, incomplete or biased exercise, carrying out or performance of any powers, duties or functions arising out of a constitutional, statutory, contractual or any other obligation, designed to achieve an unjustified result; or that amounts to any unauthorised or improper inducement to do or not to do anything and thereby contravening the said provisions of the Act,” the summons read.

According to the Sunday Times initial reports on Project Sunday Evenings, the SARS unit’s motive for spying on the NPA was to keep tabs on the progress with the prosecution of disgraced former police commissioner Jackie Selebi, who was later found guilty on charges of corruption relating to payments he’d received from convicted drug dealer Glenn Agliotti.

Other theories for the motive behind the alleged spying included that the SARS unit wanted information on investigations by the NPA and now disbanded Scorpions into Jacob Zuma, while Zuma was still Deputy President.

Even former NPA prosecutor Gerrie Nel was implicated in the Project Sunday Evenings narrative when it was reported that it was Nel who had contracted one of the “rogue unit” members to install spy equipment in the NPA’s Pretoria offices.

Gordhan was the SARS Commissioner at the time of the establishment of the so-called “rogue unit”.

Trevor Manuel, who gave the go-ahead for the establishment of the unit as the then-finance minister, had also been asked last year to provide the Hawks with an affidavit on the matter.

The broader “rogue unit” narrative, including Project Sunday Evenings has been branded a smear campaign that had the intention of discrediting and ultimately getting rid of the High-Risk Investigations Unit.

This unit was set up inside SARS to investigate high-profile tax offenders and which successfully took on some of this country’s top criminals, highly placed politicians and tax dodgers.

Van Loggerenberg, succeeded Van Rensburg as the unit’s leader, after the alleged bugging of the NPA’s offices in 2007. – News24