South African minister faces fraud charges, "spied" on taxpayers

South Africa's finance minister will appear in court in November on fraud charges as part of an investigation into his decade-long leadership of the tax authority, where he allegedly authorized spying on taxpayers.

Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan will appear in court on November 2 on suspicion of a 1-million-rand (70,000-dollar) fraudulent pension payout to a tax executive while he headed the South African Revenue Service (SARS) from 1999 to 2009, broadcaster eNCA and other media reported Tuesday.

This is part of an ongoing investigation into allegations that the tax authority established a "rogue unit" that spied on taxpayers under Gordhan's leadership.

Gordhan has dismissed the accusations against him as politically motivated.

The announcement led to the rand currency falling more than 3 per cent.

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) could not be reached for comment.

Gordhan became finance minister in December, succeeding Des Van Rooyen, who had held the post for only a few days.

Van Rooyen's appointment had come under strong criticism after President Jacob Zuma sacked popular finance minister Nhlanhla Nene, sending the rand into a free fall.

The court proceedings against Gordhan followed a corruption scandal involving President Jacob Zuma and economic slowdown due partly to a slump in mineral prices and a drought. About 27 per cent of South Africa's workforce is unemployed.

Economist Christie Viljoen described the court proceedings against Gordhan as "bad news."

"Amid so many negative issues emanating from the country's political and economic system at present, South Africans and foreign investors see Gordhan as a beacon of hope for managing the state's finances," she told the website News24.

Last update: Tue, 11/10/2016 - 14:46
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