The South African Revenue Service sent out a stern warning against corruption today with news that a Gauteng man has been slapped a 15-year jail term for trying to bribe and then intimidate one of its officials.

On Monday 15 October the Germiston Regional Court sentenced Humphrey Ngundwe to 10 years in jail on a charge of corruption, and five years on a charge of intimidation. The sentences are to run separately, which means he will serve 15 years in total. He is currently in custody, pending an appeal.

In 2008 Ngundwe attempted to claim almost R400 000 in fraudulent VAT refunds. His claim was picked up during Sars' standard VAT screening process, and Sars requested further supporting documentation from him. Ngundwe then offered the Sars staff member a R20 000 bribe.

Hero Sars employee

The attempt was reported to Sars Anti-Corruption and Security division, which, after engaging with the National Prosecuting Authority, conducted a sting operation, and "accepted" the money he was offering. Ngundwe was then arrested on a charge of corruption. After an initial court appearance, he was released on bail pending his case being heard.

However, immediately after his release, he began phoning the Sars employee (who cannot be identified because of safety precautions) demanding his (fraudulent) refund as well as the "bribe" he had paid in the sting, and threatened to kill the staff member if he/she did not comply.

As a result Ngundwe was rearrested and a charge of intimidation added to the existing corruption charge. The Sars staffer was given physical protection for the remainder of the trial, and was moved to another office as a further precaution.

The staff member received a special Sars Commissioners Award in 2009 in recognition of his/her actions.

“This sentence is a clear statement that Sars and the criminal justice system will not tolerate fraud or corruption, and that Sars takes the intimidation of its staff very seriously. All and any such attempts will be dealt with aggressively,” Sars spokesperson Marika Muller said in a statement.

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The South African Revenue Service sent out a stern warning against corruption today with news that a Gauteng man has been slapped a 15-year jail term for trying to bribe and then intimidate one of its officials.