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R250m VAT fraudster’s sentence should be a lesson: Hawks

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The 20-year jail term handed down to convicted fraudster Johannes van Staden on Friday was welcomed by both the Hawks and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).

Regional NPA spokesperson Eric Ntabazalila said they were “delighted” by the Western Cape High Court’s ruling.

Van Staden, 54, was sentenced for conducting a multi-million rand fishing business as a front for submitting false VAT returns.

Between 2006 and 2008, he defrauded the South African Revenue Service (Sars) of at least R250m.

The State described it as one of the largest fraud cases ever prosecuted in the high court.

The National Director of Public Prosecutions would bring an application to confiscate van Staden’s assets and all the affected gifts in the possession of third parties.

Relentless, diligent investigation

“It is our goal to ensure that financial crime does not pay and that criminals are not left enriched by their criminal actions,” said Ntabazalila.

National Hawks head Lieutenant General Mthandazo Ntlemeza said the sentence came after relentless and diligent investigation from their commercial branch since 2008.

The Hawks hoped the sentence would serve as a deterrent.

“We are pleased that this long-drawn out matter has finally come to an end, and we are particularly pleased with our part in ensuring that justice was served,” said regional Hawks spokesperson Captain Lloyd Ramovha.

On Friday, the court noted the calculating manner in which van Staden masterminded the fraud scheme, his lying in the witness box and his lack of remorse.

“When considering the purposes of punishment… I have concluded that deterrence and retribution need emphasis,” said Judge Anton Veldhuizen.

‘Significant premeditation’

The money was used to buy numerous luxury vehicles, two farms, game, an aeroplane and a flat for his daughter – all registered in a family trust. He also chartered a luxury jet to Mauritius for a family holiday.

The court found nothing that warranted a lighter sentence. In fact, it mentioned a number of aggravating factors.

“In your case, the premeditation is particularly significant. I can hardly imagine a more serious case of fraud,” said Veldhuizen.

He said Van Staden persisted with his dishonest conduct despite warnings and ample opportunity to desist.

This was to maintain his lavish lifestyle.

“You appropriated money, which could have been used for the benefit of the general public and especially the less privileged members of society.”

The court found it disturbing that he lied in the witness box and tried to shift blame to an unknown and unnamed individual.

Veldhuizen thanked two witnesses from Sars for their impressive and helpful evidence.

The NPA was considering appealing the acquittal of three co-accused.

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