Is this the woman diverting the Gupta millions?
Newly-filed court papers may shine more light on who was behind the infamous R200m VAT refund
The acting CEO of Gupta owned Oakbay, Ronica Ragavan, has been placed in court papers at the centre of a R200-million scheme that saw VAT refunds claimed by Optimum Coal Mine being “diverted” to a small company unrelated to the mine.
In April Times Select reported that business rescue practitioners had discovered R89-million in missing VAT refunds still in the bank account of In House Wages, and obtained a court order to recover the money.
In court papers filed in the Pretoria High Court last week, business rescue practitioners for Optimum claim that the director of In House told their attorney that “the refunds were diverted from SARS to [In House Wages] on the specific instructions of Ms Ragavan”.
Ragavan did not immediately comment on the allegations.The sole director of In House Wages is 34-year-old Ashvir Maharaj. He was appointed as a director of the company two days after the Gupta businesses were placed under rescue proceedings in February this year.
The affidavit, deposed to by one of the joint BRPs, Kurt Knoop, states that Maharaj told the BRPs’ attorney Bouwer van Niekerk that this particular transfer of R89-million was not the first.
The affidavit is part of an application by Optimum CEO George van der Merwe to have the BRPs removed. It was scheduled to be heard on Thursday but was postponed until Monday.
“A total amount of approximately R200-million is involved,” Knoop states in his papers.
The BRPs obtained an order in April to freeze the account, and stopping the funds from disappearing out of the In House Wages account.
“Mr Maharaj also informed Mr van Niekerk that Ms Ragavan had instructed him to oppose the respondents’ application and to approach [a certain] attorney to do so,” Knoop adds.But Times Select has seen an affidavit signed by Maharaj consenting to the order.
Maharaj on Thursday maintained the stance he took when first approached for comment in April, claiming to have limited knowledge of the affairs of In House Wages.
According to Maharaj, he has no details for individuals who asked him if he wanted to be a director of In House and denied being in contact with Ragavan.
“All I know now is that the funds have been paid to the business rescue guys and the account is closed,” Maharaj said on Thursday when asked about Knoop’s statements.
“I have no dealings with anyone,” he said when asked if it was true Ragavan had issued instructions to him.
“All I know [is] that the process for VAT refunds was followed by the guys processing it. Otherwise SARS would never have [been] paid out.”
“Not sure how they got it right,” he added when it was pointed out that SARS could not pay VAT refunds to unrelated third parties.
Times Select understands that, in light of the In House Wages VAT refunds, business rescue practitioners were investigating all VAT refunds relating to the Gupta companies under business rescue.
In his papers, Knoop also fired a salvo at Optimum director Pushpaveni Govender and Van der Merwe in relation to the VAT refunds, saying “there is no doubt” they were aware of the refunds being diverted.
It is not the first time SARS has paid a Gupta-linked VAT claim to a third party.In June last year City Press reported that now suspended SARS commissioner Tom Moyane allegedly intervened to have a R70-million VAT repayment, claimed by the Gupta flagship company Oakbay, paid to an unrelated third party.
Victor Terblanche of the SA Institute of Tax Professionals, not speaking about this case in particular, previously told Time Select the VAT act only allows for repayments to be made to a third party if the company is not based in South Africa or has nominated a subsidiary to receive the VAT refunds.
In House is not a registered subsidiary of Optimum, according to previous court papers.
“It may happen that a request is submitted by a subsidiary for the refund to be paid once-off to another subsidiary. Non-residents generally do not have SA bank accounts and are therefore allowed to use third-party accounts which will be more long-term.”