Vir­gin boss skipped check-in, says Sars

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - WEEK­END AR­GUS RE­PORTER

NOT EVEN Vir­gin Air­lines founder Sir Richard Bran­son is ex­empt from air­port cus­toms reg­u­la­tions, South African Rev­enue Ser­vices (Sars) warned yes­ter­day.

The cau­tion came af­ter the bil­lion­aire businessman was in­volved in a heated ex­change with cus­toms of­fi­cials at the Kruger Mpumalanga In­ter­na­tional Air­port this week over its pro­ce­dures.

Bran­son and his small en­tourage had ar­rived at the air­port on Mon­day, and skipped check-in at the air­port’s cus­toms desk.

Cus­toms of­fi­cial Jo­hannes Mahlangu, who was re­spon­si­ble for clear­ing in­ter­na­tional ar­rivals at the air­port, no­ticed this and con­fronted the group, im­me­di­ately sum­mon­ing them back.

He told them in­ter­na­tional guests who failed to re­port to cus­toms of­fi­cials could be given a stiff penalty in terms of the Cus­toms and Ex­cise Act.

A R2 000 penalty was im­posed, but it was later with­drawn af­ter “on- the- spot” in­ves­ti­ga­tions dis­closed air­port of­fi­cials had not in­formed Bran­son and the rest of his party of the need to re­port to the cus­toms desk.

They im­me­di­ately co-op­er­ated with Mahlangu when they were brought up to speed with cus­toms pro­ce­dures, Sars said yes­ter­day.

While the tax­man ac­knowl­edged the in­ci­dent may have em­bar­rassed or in­con­ve­nienced Bran­son and his en­tourage, of­fi­cials said “en­force­ment of the law is for the good of the coun­try and its rep­u­ta­tion”.

Mahlangu had acted in ac­cor­dance with stan­dard pro­ce­dure and car­ried out his leg­isla­tive du­ties.

Ac­cord­ing to Sars, all of­fi­cials are gov­erned by a strict code of be­hav­iour that com­pels them to treat clients with dig­nity and re­spect.

Richard Bran­son

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