Susan Comrie, Craig McKune, Sam Sole
Picture: Oupa Nkosi, M&G
The second-in-command at the South African Revenue Service has been flagged for “suspicious and unusual” cash payments into his bank account, with a report recommending an investigation to determine if the payments are “proceeds of crime arising from corrupt activities” or “acts of money laundering”.
The report, compiled by a banking regulator, has been handed over to SARS commissioner Tom Moyane.
It alleges that Jonas Makwakwa, the chief officer: business and individual taxes, received unexplained cash deposits and bank transfers into his FNB account totalling R1.2-million between 2010 and January this year.
Investigators also pointed to three cash deposits, totalling R450 200, to Makwakwa’s girlfriend’s Absa account just before Christmas 2015.
The report, which is only preliminary, relies on bank records for 11 different bank accounts as well as camera footage from banks where the cash deposits were made.
SARS spokesperson Sandile Memela declined to comment , but sources said that although the report had been given to Moyane in May, Makwakwa and his girlfriend, Kelly-Ann Elskie, who is also a SARS employee, had remained in their positions.
When contacted on Friday, Makwakwa and Elskie both said the matter was “sub judice” and declined to comment.
Deposits conducted “in person”
Makwakwa has become a powerful figure at SARS. A taxman for 20 years, he shot to prominence after Moyane became a commissioner in late 2014.
Since then, Makwakwa has acted as commissioner when Moyane was away, and has been put in charge of SARS’s key revenue-generating unit, the Large Business Centre, which has oversight of large corporations and wealthy individuals.
It is not clear what triggered the investigation into Makwakwa and Elskie, but it is understood that banking regulators became suspicious because of the frequent deposits of large amounts of cash.
When investigators delved into Makwakwa’s FNB bank account they identified cash deposits of R785 130 made between 2010 and 2016, most of these – 48 deposits totalling R726 400 – made between 2014 and 2015.
On one occasion Makwakwa was allegedly filmed depositing R68,000 in cash into his own account: in another 34 instances (totalling R606 200) investigators said: “information suggests that [Makwakwa] conducted these cash deposits in person”.
There is also a question mark about a September 2014 credit of R147 850.65 on Makwakwa’s account after he exchanged $13 500 .
The report concludes that the “volume and value of cash deposits are highly unusual” for a permanent employee, and should be investigated “in light of the position of authority held by [Makwakwa]”.
Although the investigation is still at an early stage, the trail of payments appears to have also led investigators to an Absa account, a car and a property in Elskie’s name.
She is believed to be Makwakwa’s common-law wife and the mother of two of his children.
In particular, investigators raised questions about three large cash deposits – two of R160 000 each and one of R130 200 – that appeared to be inconsistent with Elskie’s profile as a mid-level employee in SARS’s legal department.
“Suspicious and unusual”
The deposits were made on December 22, 23 and 24 last year at different banks in a 10km radius.