africa

Sept. 2, 2022

OWN CORRESPONDENT

3 min read

R3bn in smuggled cigarette money

R3bn in smuggled cigarette money

Smuggled cigarettes seized in Limpopo, South Africa

Story highlights

  • Sasfin’s IT guru deletes first transaction from its banking system
  • Rudland allegedly negotiated fees with the network’s money launderer

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THE South African Revenue Service (Sars) seems convinced that buccaneer capitalist Simon Rudland is pulling the strings of a transnational plunder network he established around cigarette manufacturer Gold Leaf Tobacco Corporation (GLTC) in 2016.

Rudland “initiated and established protocols” for sneaking billions of rands in illicit cigarette money out of the country, Sars argued in a successful preservation application to the Pretoria High Court last week Wednesday.

Sars said Rudland was “directly involved in issuing instructions on behalf of GLTC”, directing the amounts of money to be sneaked through commercial bank Sasfin’s system to foreign jurisdictions like Dubai, Switzerland and Mauritius.

He “took steps to circumvent the detection of these deposits and payments” from the Reserve Bank (Sarb) and Sars.

Rudland also negotiated fees with the network’s money launderer and worked in concert with his confidantes to dupe the authorities, investigators argued.

And once the plunder scheme seemed to be running on oiled wheels, Rudland handed over the reins but was — significantly — kept up to speed.

Based on the high court order, Sars has since Friday taken control of the bank accounts and all other local assets owned by GLTC, Rudland and his co-director Ebrahim Adamjee. Adamjee, “knew or ought to have known” about the Sasfin shenanigans, investigators said.

In a shocking letter dated 31 March 2022 and attached to Sars’ papers, Sasfin’s COO Rodger Dunn admitted to investigators that the bank’s probe “evidences deletion of transactions” and, as at that date, Sasfin struggled to salvage all of the information requested by Sars.

When Scorpio phoned Dunn on Friday, he was all about “protocol” and referred questions to CEO Michael Sassoon.

Sassoon said, “…I think we have given everything to Sars that was needed… obviously we are very disappointed of employees acting in this way.”

Sassoon was at pains to say that Sasfin is “100% cooperating” with Sars, gave investigators all subpoenaed documentation and asked their bank’s officials to act as witnesses. [Sars will return to Sasfin, its employees and the deletion of banking transactions in the third story in this series.]

In turn, Rudland and Adamjee denied all wrongdoing during a tax inquiry registered in terms of s50(1) of the Tax Administration Act. They pointed the finger at the plunder network’s money launderer Mohammed Khan, arguing he “hijacked” GLTC’s accounts. Their tax affairs are in order and any other dodginess happening in their accounts had nothing to do with them, they told investigators.

Sars remained unmoved.

Investigators told the court the revenue service is in the process of clawing back R1-billion in undeclared income tax and VAT from GLTC for tax years 2017 and 2018 and VAT period of September 2016 to July 2017 respectively.

GLTC’s assets are not enough to pay this tax debt, and therefore Rudland and Adamjee as the directors will have to foot the bill.

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Understatement penalties and interest can rack up GLTC’s tax bill to R3-billion.

In arguing their case, contradicting especially Rudland’s assertions of innocence, investigators red-flagged the first transaction in which Rudland and Khan allegedly tested their Sasfin scheme. 

When Lulama Kene deleted the first GLTC transactions from the Sasfin banking system, he was a 32-year-old Temenos Transact banking software guru. This, in tech-speak, is a T24 applications specialist.

Kene had access to the master key, if you will, to Sasfin’s banking system. He now works for Access Bank, a Nigerian-based commercial bank.

Kene has an elaborate tattoo on his right forearm that involves a compass and a world map. This is a new addition though, seemingly after he left Sasfin. 

Self-styling as an influencer of sorts, Kene is fond of posing in front of cars. Sometimes in clothing embroidered with his initials designed as a logo, which he is even more fond of using. 

Kene did not respond to three telephonic attempts to contact him, nor to a series of WhatsApp messages requesting an interview. - DM

 

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