Controversial tobacco bosses apologise to former Sars executive

Johann van Loggerenberg has accepted an apology from tobacco company Carnilinx's Adriano Mazzotti and Kyle Phillips. File picture.
Johann van Loggerenberg has accepted an apology from tobacco company Carnilinx's Adriano Mazzotti and Kyle Phillips. File picture.
Image: Gallo Images/Netwerk24/Deaan Vivier

The former SA Revenue Service executive at the centre of the “rogue unit” saga, Johann van Loggerenberg, said on Friday he had received an apology from two directors of tobacco company Carnilinx.

According to Van Loggerenberg, Adriano Mazzotti and Kyle Phillips tendered the apology on Thursday. The e-mail containing the apology was attached to a media statement Van Loggerenberg released on Friday.

The apology, written by Mazzotti, said he and Phillips were led to believe by people close to him at the time — who turned out to be paid double agents — that Van Loggerenberg was spearheading an onslaught against Carnilinx and would not stop until the business was destroyed.

“During this time of misinformation we adopted a very negative attitude towards you and certain Sars officials whom we believed were trying to close our business down instead of ensuring it was compliant. If by this Kyle and I caused any harm to you or any officials, we tender our sincere apology,” Mazzotti said in the letter.

Mazzotti claimed that at the time they were often targets of various dirty tricks, including placement of illegal tracking devices on their vehicles and raids by unrelated authorities that were often funded — as he and Phillips later discovered — by  multinational tobacco companies on a crusade to eliminate competition.

In his reply on Friday, Van Loggerenberg said he appreciated that Mazzotti and Phillips had placed on record their apologies and explanations.

“I believe the value of you now having placed it on record extends beyond me but will be of some value to my family, people at the SA Revenue Service and their families and some who have left Sars (and their families) since the horrible events that commenced in 2014.

“I thank you for your apology and accept it,” Van Loggerenberg said.

Van Loggerenberg said he understood Mazzotti's reference to “various dirty tricks” to refer to actual rogue activities that were falsely attributed to a small investigative unit at Sars, when in fact they were conducted by persons associated with a multi-agency tobacco task team which he had openly and vehemently questioned and confronted.

“It is now common cause that Sars was, at a point, going to hold them and others to account for their misdeeds. They caught wind of this and became the initial protagonists of the attack on Sars and officials there from as early as May 28 2014 onwards.”

Van Loggerenberg suggested that Mazzotti and Phillips should consider directing the apology to Sars commissioner Edward Kieswetter directly.

In a separate statement, Van Loggerenberg said the high risk investigation unit — dubbed the “rogue unit” — within Sars was lawfully established, and the unit and its members were not “covert”, did not “unlawfully spy” on taxpayers and traders, did not have millions in secret funds, did not conduct house infiltration and plant “bugs”, nor have access to or use sophisticated equipment.

Van Loggerenberg said this unit did not conduct mail theft, house infiltration or interceptions of taxpayer communications and did not spy on politicians or conduct lifestyle audits on them.

“These are fallacies and lies,” he said.

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