PORT ELIZABETH, A pledge by the South African Revenue Service (SARS) to crack down on the illicit economy was on Thursday hailed by Tax Justice South Africa (TJSA) as an important first step in the fight against criminals looting our nation of billions every year.

SARS commissioner Edward Kieswetter has made a commitment to work with other government agencies to stamp out illegal trading that is a threat to our people and sovereignty.

The criminal gangs behind the illicit textile, metal, fuel and tobacco industries are costing South Africa billions of rands that should help to fund a better nation for all, the SARS statement on Wednesday said.

The support of the Commissioner and of SARS is crucial if we are to stop these crooks stealing money that should be spent on building new schools, securing clean water supplies and creating social housing,” TJSA founder Yusuf Abramjee said as he welcomed the commitment.

Organised criminal gangs are crippling our society. Their illegal trading is not just taking tax revenues from government, it is destroying local businesses and stealing the money earmarked for our children’s education, for housing and for basic safety.

With the money lost to illegal clothing imports in a single month, the government could afford to hire an extra 3,600 teachers for an entire year.

The SARS statement focuses on the illegal clothing and textile industry, but it is the same story across multiple sectors, including alcohol, cigarettes, fuel and pharmaceutical drugs.

Recognition of the scale of this scourge and SARS’ commitment to tackle it is an important first step. But we also need other authorities, including police and prosecutors, to step up to the challenge.

For too long, tax-dodging criminals have been given a free pass to enrich themselves and fund other unlawful enterprises, while ordinary South Africans struggle to make ends meet.

We need to bring these criminals to justice and ensure they are put behind bars once and for all to stop the illegal economy destroying our country completely.

We need to follow the money, catch the criminals and lock them up.

Source: African News Agency