To my mind | Bruce Whitfield
Dave King has proven he has the dogged determination to fight and the considerable financial resources to seek an outcome suitable to him
TEN YEARS ON and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) appears hell-bent on a criminal prosecution of businessman Dave King – best known for his R1,4bn tax bill. Based on his own admission, Dave King failed to pay R290m in taxes. In a complex deal struck with the SA Revenue Service and the SA Reserve Bank the parties last year signed off on a R636m settlement, which covered outstanding taxes as well as interest. In return, the Reserve Bank and tax authorities would withdraw criminal charges against King and waive the 200% penalties allowed under law.
It seemed a good deal. The fiscus would get at least part of what it had argued since 2000 was due to it, King would be seen to have been admonished and the matter could be consigned to the archives. However, the deal fell apart because the NPA remains determined King should face criminal sanction. For the controversial businessman, that’s untenable. The logic goes that anyone can make a mistake with regard to their taxes but if found guilty of a criminal offence their reputation can’t be rehabilitated. King believes strongly he has a name worth protecting. In announcing his reappointment as executive chairman of MICROmega – the listed investment holding company he founded after his much publicised exit from Specialised Outsourcing – King has upped the ante.
The NPA must decide whether it has the prosecutorial muscle to delve into the complexities of this case, as well as the means and the appetite for the inevitable appeals that might follow. Even Sars resorted to hiring private advocates in its pursuit of King, which culminated in it having to pay more than half of the total R450m spent by both parties over the duration of that battle.
King has proven he has the dogged determination to fight and the considerable financial resources to seek an outcome suitable to him. It was his sale of shares in Outsourcing, the Nineties go-go stock that made him super rich in the days before mandatory directors’ dealings disclosure. His actions were legal but raised ethical questions as hundreds of gullible investors saw their investment shredded.
In an ideal world we’d expect the NPA to pursue anyone it suspects of criminality. Though our courts are overburdened and prosecutors overstretched, a deal could be resurrected. The NPA has shown its willingness to deal in far simpler cases.