Fraud mas­ter­mind jailed for 20 years, could lose mil­lions in as­sets

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - FA­TIMA SCHROEDER

WHILE serv­ing a 20-year sen­tence for de­fraud­ing the tax man of more than R250 mil­lion in fic­ti­tious VAT re­turn claims, Cape Town busi­ness­man Jo­han van Staden will have to fight one more bat­tle – an As­set For­fei­ture Unit (AFU) bid to strip him of mil­lions of rands worth of as­sets.

The AFU has about R6m of Van Staden’s as­sets un­der re­straint and its next step in the process is to ap­ply for a con­fis­ca­tion or­der. On June 27 – the day Van Staden was con­victed – the unit ap­plied to have a con­fis­ca­tion in­quiry held to quan­tify the ben­e­fit Van Staden had de­rived from the fraud. A date for the in­quiry has not yet been set.

Van Staden, 54, con­victed of fraud, rack­e­teer­ing, money laun­der­ing and reck­less trad­ing, was led down to the hold­ing cells of the West­ern Cape High Court yes­ter­day after Judge An­ton Veld­huizen sen­tenced him to an ef­fec­tive 20 years be­hind bars.

The court found he was the mas­ter­mind of a mul­ti­mil­lion-rand VAT fraud scheme, the largest to ever be pros- ecuted in the West­ern Cape.

He com­mit­ted the fraud be­tween 2005 and 2008 as the rep­re­sen­ta­tive ven­dor of Indo At­lantic Seafoods (Pty) Lim­ited, Indo At­lantic Ship­ping Lim­ited and South­ern Ocean Marine Cor­po­ra­tion (Pty) Lim­ited and as the per­son who was legally re­spon­si­ble for their VAT re­turns.

Pass­ing sen­tence yes­ter­day, Judge Veld­huizen said he could not find any fac­tors which he re­garded as un­usual or which dis­tin­guished Van Staden from oth­ers. Al­though Van Staden had health prob­lems, they were not se­ri­ous and were treat­able with the right med­i­ca­tion.

The judge also pointed out that Van Staden had a pre­vi­ous con­vic­tion in­volv­ing the pre­sen­ta­tion of false cur­rency.

Turn­ing to the crimes of which Van Staden was con­victed, Judge Veld­huizen said he could hardly imag­ine a more se­ri­ous case of fraud than this.

“It was com­mit­ted again and again over a pe­riod of many years. You had am­ple op­por­tu­nity to de­sist, but de­spite warn­ings, per­sisted with the dis­hon­est con­duct. This re­sulted in a po­ten­tial loss of nearly R280m and an ac­tual loss of about R250m,” he said.

The judge also pointed out that the fraud af­fected all tax­pay­ers and the pub­lic.

“You ap­pro­pri­ated money which could have been used for the ben­e­fit of the gen­eral pub­lic and es­pe­cially the less priv­i­leged mem­bers of so­ci­ety. This you did to main­tain your lav­ish life­style,” he said.

Judge Veld­huizen found it par­tic­u­larly dis­turb­ing that Van Staden lied when he gave ev­i­dence and tried to shift the blame.

“This con­clu­sion is sup­ported by the fact that, when you re­gained con­trol over your as­sets and un­til the re­straint or­der was re­in­stated by the Supreme Court of Ap­peal, you dis­si­pated nearly R12m. This is, to this day, un­ac­counted for and hap­pened over a pe­riod of ap­prox­i­mately 18 months.

“These fac­tors serve to ag­gra­vate the al­ready se­ri­ous crimes of which you stand con­victed.”

He sen­tenced Van Staden to 20 years for the rack­e­teer­ing and money laun­der­ing, an ad­di­tional 20 years for fraud, and two years for each of the three reck­less trad­ing con­vic­tions.The court or­dered the sen­tences run con­cur­rently, which means Van Staden’s ef­fec­tive sen­tence amounts to 20 years.

Eric Ntabazalila, the Na­tional Prose­cut­ing Au­thor­ity’s pro­vin­cial spokesman, wel­comed the sen­tence.

“This sen­tence should act as a de­ter­rent to other crim­i­nals con­tem­plat­ing sim­i­lar schemes. Such crim­i­nals need to know what awaits them if they suc­cumb to the temp­ta­tion to tar­get the fis­cus/Sars.”

He said the NPA was study­ing the judg­ment to de­ter­mine whether or not to ap­peal the ac­quit­tal of Van Staden’s co-ac­cused, Marc Schoe­man, Ger­hard Botha and Gary New­mark.

fa­tima.schroeder@inl.co.za

PIC­TURE: JA­SON BOUD

Jo­han van Staden was found guilty of de­fraud­ing Sars of more than R250 mil­lion over sev­eral years and sen­tenced to 20 years in jail.

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