Media reports have it that the South African Revenue Service (SARS) commissioner Tom Moyane established a secret investigation unit similar to the “rogue unit” that harassed its former boss and current Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan.

According to the media report – which is currently being investigated by the treasury- SARS commissioner Tom Moyane authorized a secret unit to conduct undercover operations in the tobacco industry which has been involved in corrupt activities such as victimization of competitors of British American Tobacco.

The report from an internal SARS memo states that the unit would conduct undercover operations, set up agent traps and intercept the communications of suspected SARS employees and would work with the Hawks, the National Prosecuting Authority and police crime intelligence.

Moyane first announced his plan to set up a special investigation unit in a briefing to Parliament’s standing committee on finance on the tax authority’s strategic plan, although he did not provide details of its nature or scope of work.

Moyane at the time differentiated the so-called rogue unit from his special unit by saying his unit would be established in terms of the law.

The legality of this investigative unit has been largely questioned especially as it is said to uncover tax evasion and the illicit trade in cigarettes

The Hawks are apparently at an advanced stage of their investigation into the “rogue unit” and it is feared Gordhan will once again be charged.

SARS has presented the new unit as a legitimate exercise and the Treasury spokeswoman, Yolisa Tyantsi said “this stage the information has been reported by the media and that the National Treasury is in the process of looking into the veracity of the reports.”

It is not clear whether Moyane needs to obtain ministerial approval for this or whether it is an operational matter which falls under his sole discretion. However, the Treasury has been kept in the dark about other goings-on at the tax authority which it has only learnt about through media reports.