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Shaun Abrahams rejects claim of R50bn market loss over Gordhan charges

Nov 15 2016 20:30
Gareth van Zyl

Cape Town - Head of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), Shaun Abrahams, has played down the economic impact of charges being levelled against Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan.

Abrahams has issued this statement as part of an answering affidavit to a November 9 court application by the Helen Suzman Foundation (HSF) and Freedom Under Law (FUL).

HSF and FUL want President Jacob Zuma to suspend Abrahams, head of the Priority Crimes Litigation Unit Torie Pretorius, SC, and director of Public Prosecutions for North Gauteng Adv Sibongile Mzinyathi.

The organisations accused the NPA, acting through these three officials, of having “brought obviously baseless criminal charges against Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, Mr Ivan Pillay and Mr Oupa Magashula”.

In October, the NPA decided to charge Gordhan for fraud, related to the early retirement of Pillay, the former deputy commissioner of the South African Revenue Service (Sars). Pillay and former Sars commissioner Oupa Magashula were also served with summonses.

But Abrahams later made an about-turn and dropped the charges after the rand plunged and legal experts criticised the move.

READ: Reprieve for Gordhan, SA as NPA backtracks on fraud charges

In court papers, Abrahams has now opposed HSF and FUL’s court application and he has further indicated that there is “no merit” that his decision to charge Gordhan had a negative impact on the economy.

“The suggestion that R50bn was wiped out of the stock exchange or that it is going to be wiped out again if the Minister is charged in relation to the rogue spy unit investigation is based on speculation. There is no merit in this,” said Abrahams.

“I do not understand the markets to operate on the basis that a Minister should not be charged with an offence if there is wrongdoing on his part,” he said.

“The markets clearly cannot condone the burdening of the taxpayer with the penalty which Pillay ought to have paid himself by way of reducing his pension benefits - instead this penalty was paid on his behalf by Sars because the Minister said so, and not because it is lawful,” Abrahams added.

READ: Gordhangate: Almost R34bn wiped off SA banks

He further said the investigation into the so-called Sars spy rogue unit is not complete and no decision has been made one way or the other.

Fin24 sister publication City Press recently reported that Gordhan could face charges once again over the surveillance unit before year-end. But Abrahams said a final decision hasn’t been made yet regarding this matter.

“However, it is patently clear that the real objective of the applicants in this application is to ensure that no charges are preferred against the Minister arising from the Sars rogue unit, irrespective of the merits of any such charges,” said Abrahams.

The court papers further illustrate how the Hawks' Berning Ntlemeza wrote letters to Abrahams a day before the NPA head dropped the charges.

"It is our considered view that your decision is not made in good faith on evidence that we have gathered as an investigative agency in this matter,” Ntlemeza said.

"Rather it seems to us that you make this decision based on the noises made by politicians, civil society lobby groups, and the media sympathetic to the accused,” Ntlemeza told Abrahams.

Meanwhile, it has been reported that President Jacob Zuma had also written a letter to Abrahams asking why he shouldn’t be suspended as NPA head.

READ: Parties react to Zuma's 'suspicous move' against Abrahams

Read Fin24's top stories trending on Twitter:

shaun abrahams  |  pravin gordhan  |  economy  |  npa
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