Father-and-son fraudsters get a R615‚000 bill from the taxman

Tom-Ross Fortuin faces 18 months house arrest.
Tom-Ross Fortuin faces 18 months house arrest.
Image: LinkedIn

The taxman is getting his money back from a Cape Town businessman‚ his son and their bookkeeper who stole R615‚000.

Thomas Fortuin‚ Tom-Ross Fortuin and Ivor Carolissen were convicted on Thursday of 382 counts including fraud‚ forgery‚ uttering and failing to submit income tax returns.

The men entered into a plea bargain with the state in the Cape Town District Court and pleaded guilty.

Thomas Fortuin‚ 65‚ of Franschhoek‚ and his 35-year-old son‚ from Bellville‚ were each sentenced to 18 months’ house arrest and four hours of community service a week.

Both also received four year prison sentences suspended for five years on the condition that they do not reoffend. Tom-Ross was also ordered to pay SARS the R615‚000 they stole.

Carolissen was given a direct prison sentence of three years‚ with another three years suspended. He handed his tie and belt to the Fortuins and his legal respresentatives advised him: “Look after yourself.”

He was also reported to the National Tax Practitioners Board‚ and all the companies involved in the trio’s crimes were deregistered.

National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Eric Ntabazalila said the criminal scheme started in 2008‚ when shell companies registered in the name of Thomas Fortuin’s wife began submitting falsified claims for VAT refunds.

“The fraudsters submitted fraudulent VAT claims‚ misleading the SA Revenue Service to believe that certain VAT transactions took place ... that entitled the close corporations to claim VAT refunds‚” said Ntabazalila.

“They used forged purchase agreements‚ invoices and delivery notes to verify and justify the VAT claims. Sars deposited the VAT claims into three close corporations’ bank accounts‚ [and the money was] withdrawn as soon as it was deposited.”

Thomas Fortuin was an unrehabilitated insolvent when he conducted the fraud but he used the names of family members to register the shell companies. “The fraudsters were persistent in ensuring that they got the money even when Sars discovered their scheme‚” said Ntabazalila.

“When the Sars audit section queried the correctness of the initially submitted VAT return claims and requested documentation in support of the claims‚ the accused tried to convince Sars to pay out the VAT refunds.”

The men forged everything from contracts to credit notes and affidavits to thwart Sars auditors‚ and when this failed they made submissions to the Tax Appeal Board.

NPA tax unit prosecutor Wimpie Els said in a statement that the group’s criminal activity was at the “expense of all other South African citizens”.

He added: “An important lesson from this case is that Sars’ systems to detect criminality and dishonesty work. Not only were the fraudulent VAT claims identified and queried by Sars auditors‚ but even when false invoices and supporting documents were created Sars auditors were not misled.

“The message to dishonest taxpayers is clear: commit fraud and you will get caught and go to jail.”

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