The High Court has once again given notice that it will show no mercy to tax cheats and other “white-collar” criminals.
An accountant had been convicted by a Regional Court of 20 counts of fraud against SARS, involving registration of companies with false information and the generation and submission of false invoices and VAT returns. As a result SARS lost R425,843-33 in unwarranted VAT refunds before detecting the crime.
The Regional Court sentenced the accountant to a wholly-suspended term of 7 years’ imprisonment. His subsequent appeal to the High Court against his conviction went disastrously wrong for him – not only was his conviction confirmed, but the Court stiffened his sentence by making 3 years of the sentence effective (with the other 4 still suspended conditionally).
A wholly-suspended sentence was, held the Court, “excessively lenient”. “Our society, where fraud and corruption are rife, expects harsher treatment in cases like [this one]”. Not only was the appellant an accountant and therefore “in a position of trust”, but his scheme had required careful planning and execution and had been perpetrated on a sustained and continuous basis.
NOTE FOR ATTORNEYS: The judgment in Joubert v S (A410/11)  ZAGPPHC 5 is available on the Saflii website http://www.saflii.org/za/cases/ZAGPPHC/2012/5.pdf.
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