Christo Wiese implicated in tax avoidance scheme, amaBhungane reports

Former Steinhoff chair Christo Wiese has been implicated in an alleged tax avoidance scheme, amaBhungane reported on Thursday.

The investigative journalism unit reported that Wiese and three other people were being investigated by the SA Revenue Service as part of a larger tax claim case stemming from the restructuring of an oil company called Tullow.

According to amaBhungane, Wiese was advised by law firm ENSafrica.

The case has come to light in papers filed in the Western Cape High Court, and is set to be heard next month. 

Wiese told amaBhungane he "got no tax benefit from the scheme".

Wiese's Titan group, mentioned in the article, separately announced in April that it wanted to sue embattled retailer Steinhoff for R59bn over losses suffered following the precipitous decline in Steinhoff's share price.

AmaBhunage reporter Craig McKune, speaking to 702's Bruce Whitfield on the Money Show on Wednesday evening, said Wiese "bought into this problem".

"[The tax bill dates] from the restructure of a major oil firm unrelated to Christo Wiese," said McKune. "What popped out of this restructure - which was put together, in part, by a major South African law firm - was a little company that contained in it a tax shelter."

McKune said the tax planners sold this company on to Wiese.   

ENSafrica responds 

In a media statement published on its website on Thursday morning, ENSafrica - who according to the amaBhungane article advised Wiese around the tax shelter - said it could not provide a detailed response to the article, as it is on record as the attorneys for certain parties in subsequent proceedings.

"However, we note the following: various advisors, besides our firm, provided advice and input on this restructure. Senior counsel also provided extensive advice on the tax and other commercial aspects arising from the transaction.

"As part of these transactions, an entity affiliated with our firm acquired one of the group companies in 2007. This affiliate subsequently sold the company to the Titan Group as part of a separate transaction which also took place in 2007."

ENSafrica said that it had "at all times, complied with all the requirements of the relevant tax laws".

It stated that the tax agency had "full knowledge and understanding of all the steps in respect of the separate transactions", and was aware of the roles played by all advisors.

"SARS has not sought to impugn the role of any of the advisors (including ourselves) arising from these transactions."

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