The Johannesburg Magistrates’ Court sentenced the owner of SHL Wholesalers CC, Suhayle Ballim (50), to 15 years imprisonment on 39 counts of fraud. The court found that Ballim used his business as a conduit between February 2004 and April 2007 by submitting fraudulent VAT refund claims worth R16 million to the South African Revenue Service (SARS). The court further found that the supporting documents Ballim submitted to SARS were fraudulent. They purported to show exports, qualifying SHL Wholesalers to claim input tax from SARS, whilst they were merely a paper trail created and no goods were exported.

The trial lasted 14 years due to tactical delays employed by Ballim. He was convicted on 9 May 2022 but frustrated the finalisation of the matter with many applications for postponements. The matter was finally postponed for the sentence to 4 June 2024. The court warned Ballim that no further delays would be entertained and that the matter would be concluded on 4 June 2024. In a last-ditch attempt to avoid being sentenced, Ballim brought an application for the recusal of the magistrate on the day but was dismissed as the court ordered sentencing proceedings to commence. His legal team then sought another postponement arguing that they were not prepared for sentencing. The court dismissed the application for a postponement and ordered that the sentencing proceedings continue. Following the court’s refusal to postpone the matter his legal team withdrew, and he presented his case in person, where he submitted facts for consideration by the court when imposing a sentence.

The NPA submitted that the minimum sentence ought to be imposed since the scheme operated by Ballim covered a period of 4 years and was well-planned. The court in handing down the sentence remarked that tax-related offences are serious, harmful to the economy and prevalent. The court found that he showed no remorse and never intended to repay SARS. The NPA commends the prosecution team and the SARS criminal investigation team, for ensuring the perpetrator of tax crimes, that undermined the country’s socio-economic well-being, and the rule of law is brought to book. The team ensured justice was served, amid extremely challenging circumstances.

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