Finance minister Pravin Gordhan has responded to reports of his ‘imminent’ arrest on charges of espionage, relating to the so-called “rogue spy unit” at SARS, which was set up under his watch as commissioner.
The Sunday Times, citing senior officials in the Hawks and the NPA, reported on the weekend that Gordhan was set to be arrested.
The Presidency said that the story was fabricated and is “the work of dangerous information peddlers who wish to cause confusion and mayhem in the country”.
The Hawks declined to comment on the matter.
On Monday, The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) sent the docket investigating finance minister Gordhan back to the Hawks, ‘with guidance‘, TimesLive reported.
In a statement on Tuesday evening, minister Gordhan said that the entire episode had been ‘distressing’. The minister professed his innocence, claiming that he had answered all questions asked by the Hawks.
“I cannot believe that I am being investigated and could possibly be charged for something I am completely innocent of,” he said.
“The malicious rumours and accusations about ‘espionage’ activities are false and manufactured for other motives.”
The Hawks have long been gunning for the minister, even before he was repositioned as head of the finance department in December 2015.
The investigative unit was criticised for taking on the minister during his budget speech in February – a sensitive time for the country, following president Jacob Zuma’s sacking of Nhlanhla Nene in December 2015, which sent the economy into a tailspin.
Read Gordhan’s full statement:
“The recent media reports about my arrest – imminent or not – have been extremely distressing for my family and me.
“I cannot believe that I am being investigated and could possibly be charged for something I am completely innocent of. I have answered the questions submitted by the Hawks, and have not heard from them. I was not aware of any impending charges or further investigations until the reports in the past weekend.
“It is indeed true, that no one is above the law. But no one should be subjected to the manipulation of the law and agencies for ulterior motives.
“Throughout my 45 years of activism, I have worked for the advancement of the ANC, our Constitution and our democratic government. I would never have thought that individuals within the very agencies of this government would now conspire to intimidate and harass me and my family.
“I have met with my lawyers to obtain their advice. They will be approaching the leadership of both the Hawks and the National Prosecuting Authority for further information and clarity.
“I worked together with over ten thousand staff for a decade to transform SARS into a world class revenue and customs administration. We built the revenue service into an efficient and effective institution that provided the increasing fiscal resources to enable government to provide social grants. SARS and the specialist investigative units therein operated within the law during my time as the Commissioner.
“The malicious rumours and accusations about “espionage” activities are false and manufactured for other motives.
“There have also been reports of business people claiming inside knowledge of or influence over state institutions. If such reports are true, that alleged conduct will undermine the integrity and honesty within the Treasury or other key institutions.”