'I was never scared' - Jacques Pauw after SARS drops litigation

The South African Revenue Service (SARS) has dropped its litigation against investigative journalist Jacques Pauw, after initially charging that he published confidential information in his book The President's Keepers.

NB Publishers said on Friday it was "delighted" to announce the withdrawal of the case, following legal correspondence from SARS this week.

The publishing house was told that acting commissioner Mark Kingon "considers this litigation unfortunate" and was "working hard to restore the public confidence in the SARS".

In his book, which was published in October last year, Pauw alleges that former president Jacob Zuma received monthly payments of R1m from controversial tender mogul Roy Moodley, without declaring it to SARS.

SARS, under then commissioner Tom Moyane, filed papers in the Western Cape High Court against Pauw, saying that he published confidential tax information in the book, which was in contravention of the Tax Administration Act.

Although the papers were not served on NB Publishers, the publishing house defended Pauw against the court action, arguing that the tax information was in the public interest.

Moyane was suspended in March pending the institution of disciplinary proceedings.

'Terribly credible man'

Reacting to the news on Friday, Pauw told News24 that he always suspected SARS would not continue with the legal action after the departure of Moyane.

He was quite surprised when SARS asked him "nicely" if everyone would pay their own costs, which they agreed to do.

"I was never scared of any litigation," he said.

Pauw described Kingon as a "terribly credible man" who was trying to do the right thing.

"Although everyone is now going to pay their own costs, it shows you once again how silly it was to waste time and resources to take me to court."

Pauw said his hope now was that pending criminal charges related to the possession of classified documents would also disappear.

"I have always admitted that I have been in possession of classified documents," he said.

'Legally in possession of documents'

"My defence will be, number one, that I am legally in possession of it and number two, you can’t abuse the Intelligence Act... to hide a crime."

In November, the State Security Agency (SSA) sent a cease and desist letter to Pauw and NB Publishers, claiming the content of the book violated the Intelligence Services Act.

The agency threatened to approach the court for an interdict to prevent further distribution, publishing or promotion if the book was not withdrawn from store shelves.

In February, Hawks officers raided his home in Riebeek Kasteel, about 80km north-east of Cape Town.

His lawyer Willem de Klerk said at the time that the Hawks obtained a search and seizure warrant to conduct searches at the author’s home.

"The warrant relates to supposed secret documents in the possession of the author. Pauw is giving his full co-operation to the police," de Klerk said at the time.

Pauw said on Friday that they never found anything and that officers could not understand what he meant when he said the documents were all in a "cloud".