An estimated R160m is lost annually in excise duties on spirits alone through fraudulent and other illegal activities in the South African liquor industry.

Widespread frustration was being experienced among members of the industry after successful raids and the collection of documentation and evidence on a number of cases, which had not resulted in legal action being concluded.

According to sources in the industry, the Liquor Industry Sectoral Task Group raided a syndicate a year ago, but the person still operated with impunity in spite of allegedly owing R120 million in excise duties, VAT and penalties. Another pending case had been postponed nine times and in a third, the person charged passed away before the case was concluded.

The Task Group, comprising the South African Revenue Services, South African Police Services, Cane Distillers Association, KWV, Cape Wine & Spirits Institute, the Department of Agriculture and South African Breweries, was established in 1996. SAB is the newest member of the group, joining this year.

Most people in the industry were at great pains about not wanting to rock the boat because they realised the need for close co-operation between all players. Some, however, said the lack of action, after a great deal of work to uncover the operations, impacted on all parties, especially the government.

They said there was good progress in other areas, including the introduction in February of a system of excise duty payment at source, to minimise tax evasion, while reducing the cost of collection.

Approached for comment, Task Group chairman, Advocate Riaan Kruger, director of the CWSI, said there was excellent co-operation between all parties involved, but confirmed there were certain areas of concern.

“These have been discussed with senior officials and the necessary action was promised,” he said.