Durban – A Reservoir Hills woman was sentenced to 10 years in prison for submitting fraudulent claims for Value-Added Tax (VAT) to the SA Revenue Services (SARS).
The 55-year-old businesswoman, Sheritha Hariram, was sentenced in the Pinetown Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday on six counts of fraud amounting to R1 981 762.19 and three theft charges amounting to R1 195 706.39.
Hariram was given two terms of 10 years each and two terms of five years each, resulting in a total of 30 years direct imprisonment. However, all of the sentences were ordered to run concurrently.
SARS Commissioner Edward Kieswetter said the magistrate heard evidence that Hariram registered a company, Gallop Administration CC, whilst she was still working for a firm of accountants who were doing the accounting work for a horse-racing administration company.
Gallop Administration then applied to SARS to be appointed as a horse-racing agent. With such authority, Gallop Administration was authorised to claim VAT refunds on behalf of racehorse owners who were not registered for VAT.
The court found that Hariram had used agents to solicit clients in the racehorse industry and paid them a commission for any clients sent to her. Gallop Administration would charge their clients 20% of the VAT that the company was able to claim from SARS.
It was also found that Hariram had inflated VAT claims for a number of clients and had pocketed the inflated amounts.
Kieswetter applauded the investigators responsible for the successful conviction and sentencing on Tuesday.
“SARS is deeply committed to uprooting criminality especially as it relates to tax related matters. I am glad that the courts are taking these crimes seriously and handing down these severe sentences. Taxpayers need to understand that they will not get away with defrauding SARS which is in effect a crime against the poor and vulnerable in our society who depend on state assistance,” he said.
He said if it were not for the dedication and persistence of the investigators, the taxman would not be able to prosecute criminals who lack any sense of morality or integrity.