Monthly Archives: March 2012
One super-rich individual who has been high on the South African Revenue Service’s (SARS’) hit-list for years is multi-millionaire David Cunningham King (usually known as Dave King), a policeman’s son from Glasgow who moved to South Africa in the mid-1970s after becoming an accountant. He retains his Scottish connections, not least through a non-executive directorship of Rangers Football Club plc and the £20m he invested in the Club in 2000.
According to the Club’s 2009 annual report, he also held more than three million shares in the related company Murray Sports Limited, ‘as an authorised representative of Metlika Trading Ltd’, a company in the British Virgin Islands.
In one of the many twists in King’s battle with SARS, it would appear that his mother Agnes now owns the shares in Murray Sports Ltd, thought to be worth some £1.5m. UK newspapers Dave King, Rangers football club, and the South African Revenue Service reported late last year that the shares had been transferred in what SARS saw as a bid to avoid tax.
King and SARS have made no secret of their mutual contempt. At a media briefing in 2008, King said SARS had made serious mistakes and wasted huge sums while investigating his affairs, and had failed to honour agreements that had been reached.
SARS immediately hit back, revealing it had been pursuing him through the South African courts for eight years and that he faced charges which, if convicted, could see him jailed for 15 years.
‘This is the reason for his constant filibustering,’ it stated in a press release.
‘The 322 charges include fraud, money laundering, racketeering and tax evasion for the period 1990 to 2001 (and for non-rendition of tax returns for 2002-2005),’ SARS alleged.
Attached to the press release was a document which SARS alleged was a fraud signed by King, purporting to be a Rand300m (£26.7m) settlement agreement he had reached with them.
The SARS case against King is ongoing.
He continues to maintain his innocence.
Dave King and Ally McCoist meet Rangers’ administrators: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/football/17132094
Rangers have confirmed that South Africa-based businessman Dave King has had a meeting with the Scottish champions’ administrators.
Team manager Ally McCoist also held talks with Duff and Phelps.
But Rangers stress that King’s meeting was in connection with his duties as a director of the Glasgow club.
King has previously been involved in takeover talks with the club, who were forced into administration following action from HMRC over a £9m tax bill.
The news of King’s talks with the administrator emerged after he and McCoist were filmed leaving Ibrox in the same car.
King, who invested £20m in the club in 2000 and is the second-largest shareholder at the club, said he was put off by the demands of Lloyds Banking Group when considering his own takeover before Sir David Murray sold his shares to Whyte for £1.
King, who himself has been hit with a £250m bill after he lost a 10-year battle with the taxman in South Africa, was reported to be on the verge of being removed from his position by Whyte just before the club appointed the administrators.
However, he remains on the board as a non-executive director.
Rangers director Dave King has been hit with a £250million bill after he lost a 10-year battle with the taxman.
A company run by the Scot have dropped their appeal against a South African court which branded King, a “shameless liar” and ruled the firm were liable for the huge unpaid sum.
Now proceedings are under way to collect the vast debt – and the 55-year-old tycoon is still at risk of being jailed for fraud.
In 2006, South African prosecutors won court orders freezing assets including three million shares in Murray Sports – who owned a third of Rangers – and a house where King’s mother lives.
An appeal against the bulk of the tax debt was dismissed last October. In a devastating judgment, the court said King “has no respect for the truth and does not hesitate to lie … if he thinks it will be to his advantage.
“He is a mendacious witness whose evidence should not be accepted on any issue unless it is supported by objective evidence.
“In our assessment he is a glib and shameless liar.”
On Friday, a hearing in Pretoria was told a further legal challenge by Ben Nevis had now been dropped. A SARS spokesman said: “This development means that certain facts are now uncontested and it entitles us to move on to the next stage, which is to claim the amount which is outstanding.”
King also faces more than 300 criminal charges including fraud, money-laundering and racketeering.
Rangers: Taxing times for ‘saviour’
Saturday 31 October 2009
A YEAR ago, almost to the day, Dave King called a press conference at a posh Johannesburg country club and promised to lift the lid on those investigating him for tax avoidance. This session, he said, would be gloves-off and no-holds-barred. He was going to blast his accusers at the South African Revenue Service (SARS) right out of the water with proof of hypocrisy and cataclysmic errors.
He said he was being bullied and likened them to a terrorist organisation. He was a wronged man and he was going to prove it.
King delivered on his promise and dynamited SARS. And then the government responded. SARS issued a statement of eye-watering intensity, levelling a bewildering series of counter-allegations. They accused him of fabricating and distorting facts. They said he was desperate because the authorities were closing in on him. They said he was not the victim he portrayed himself to be, rather a man who lied and lied about his tax affairs.
And that was just for starters.
“He attempts to erode the culture of growing tax compliance in South Africa,” said the statement.
Also: “He has acted fraudulently, evaded tax and lied about his income and profits generated since 1990.”
Next: “He faces a variety of very serious criminal charges. If convicted he could be sentenced to a term of imprisonment of no less than 15 years.”
And then: “This is the reason for his constant filibustering. The 322 charges include fraud, money laundering, racketeering and tax evasion for period 1990 to 2001 (and for non-rendition of tax returns for 2002 to 2005].”
And if that wasn’t enough: “Additional charges of fraud, forgery and/or corruption have been registered and are being investigated against King.”
He faces a bill of over 900m rand in personal tax and 1.4bn rand in business tax. Lumped together, it equates to more than 180m. SARS have a dossier on him numbering 200,000 pages and say they have up to100 witnesses for the prosecution. It is a story that has been rumbling for eight years. It has become an epic battle, the most bitter and, financially, the largest tax stand-off in the history of South Africa. It is not just about the money, it’s personal. SARS and King have made it so.
Last week, a source close to SARS told us that there is an icy determination to see this through. They also described as laughable the notion that King might stump up the millions required to take Rangers off Sir David Murray’s hands. They say that it is not true that the government has seized King’s passport, but it is true that they have frozen some of his assets. “If Mr King comes out now and suddenly produces tens of millions of pounds to buy a football club then SARS are going to be wondering where that money came from,” said a source. “I can’t see him doing it. It’s just not going to happen.”
Little of this has been reported in Scotland. Sure, there have been things written about the 322 charges against him but the scale of the case against King has been played down and instead he has been depicted as a potential Rangers Messiah.
The boy’s own story has been trotted out. He’s the son of a policeman who left for South Africa 30 years ago with just a few quid in his pocket. He’s the Rangers supporter made good. Made very good, in fact. His business prowess brought him a fortune and a lifestyle that befitted one of South Africa’s wealthiest people. He lives in the elite Sandhurst suburb of Johannesburg. He bought three houses there, razed them to the ground and then put a 7m mansion on the site. Outside the door is his Ferrari and other expensive vehicles. His wealth is estimated at 300m.
A chunk of that wealth can be traced back to a windfall he made on a company called Specialised Outsourcing. In 1997, he sold his shareholding for 1.2bn rand, more than 110m. In 2000, an elderly SARS investigator called Charles Chipps was reading an article on King when he noticed a picture of the Glaswegian, taken at his plush Sandhurst home. Chipps spotted a painting by Irma Stern, the internationally recognised South African painter. The Stern painting, Chipps discovered, had been bought by King at auction for a record 1.76m rand or about 130,000. Chipps wondered how King could afford it given that he’d been claiming that his annual income was a fraction of what he’d given for the piece of art. In fact, King had applied to be deregistered for tax, such was the trifling amount he claimed he was earning.
King was arrested in 2002 and soon he had 322 charges against his name. The Scot has stated that, yes, he does owe some tax and he’s put a figure on it of just over 3m. He says he has offered to settle but that his approaches have been rebuked. SARS, he has said, are conducting a witch hunt against him.
It has to be said that SARS are not exactly water-tight in their prosecution of such cases. There is a list of high fliers in the business world in South Africa who have come in for similar treatment – but arguably not as aggressive – as King has and some of the cases against some of these people just could not be proven. In May last year, SARS took a case to trial and lost it and in the summing-up the judge was heavily critical of their shoddy investigation.
King claims that their work in investigating his affairs is every bit as slapdash.
The hostility between SARS and King cranked up a level a year ago when the revenue service brought a new charge against him for allegedly attempting to bribe one of its committee members, a man called Leonard Radebe. “Our claim,” said SARS spokesman, Adrian Lackay, ” is that King submitted a fraudulent document to court, and tried to corrupt one of our general managers.”
The allegation is that King was willing to pay Radebe more than 1m to bring an end to the dispute. King’s version is altogether different. He claims that Radebe approached him on behalf of SARS and that an offer was made of a full and final settlement in the region of 25m. If King handed over the money, all charges would be dropped. When Radebe’s actions were discovered, he was suspended.
King says that he thought Radebe was a credible representative of SARS, that he checked him out and believed him to be in a position of power to offer such a deal. The Scot was convinced that Radebe had a mandate to act. SARS counter that all the documentation was faked and there was corruption afoot. “It defies logic that I’d fight this for eight years and then resort to petty bribery,” said King, later.
SARS have had to go to the supreme court of appeal seven times since 2002 to fight King. “We have to follow the legal process to the letter,” says Lackay. “This is the unique case of a very wealthy taxpayer who is able to frustrate this. But we have to apply the law equally to everyone.”
Judgment is pending on one of the cases against King, but trying to predict when all of this will finally be settled is an impossible business. King is convinced that he is being picked on and refuses to bow down in front of the authorities. SARS say that he amassed a fortune without adhering to the same tax rules as everybody else in South Africa. Neither of them look like they are going to back down, so a battle that has raged for many years already looks set to continue.
And Rangers? Those at Ibrox would be better off looking elsewhere for a great redeemer. It would appear that King has his hands full elsewhere.
Dave King And I — Tax rebel’s astonishing financial come-back
4th November 2013
There cannot be many people in South Africa who are not aware of Dave King’s extraordinary 13 year-long fight with the South African Revenue Services (Sars) over a tax assessment in excess of R3.2 billion.
Tax disputes do not normally make the front pages of Sunday newspapers, but when the numbers are so high and the fast-moving events so incredible that it could come straight out of the pages of a John Grisham or Dan Brown novel, it becomes a national talking point.
And even after this thirteen-year battle, costing hundreds of millions of rands in legal fees, the attempted confiscation of King’s assets and court dramas all around the globe, one is still left with a sense of dissatisfaction, a kind of anti-climax as to whether King was guilty or not. The legal issue of revenue versus capital will not be dissected and delivered on by the highest court in the land.
There was a lot of legal foreplay, an enormous amount of huffing and puffing on both sides but in the end the settlement reached between King and Sars in August this year – in terms of which King has paid Sars about R700m in outstanding taxes to settle all claims against him and his various family trusts – meant he could carry on with his life and his business career.
So who actually came out on top in this extraordinary battle?
Sars initially wanted R3.2 billion; it got R700 million. King remained steadfast that what he did was perfectly legal as the R1 billion or so profits he and his various family trusts made out of the sale of shares in Specialised Outsourcing during the 1997/98 stock market boom was well within his rights. He also maintains that the profits were not of a revenue nature but one of a capital nature.
Many others, including some of the finest tax brains in this country, agree with this.
If King was eventually found wanting by a court on this issue, it could possibly have been like a proverbial nuclear bomb for hundreds, if not thousands of wealthy estates who hold most if not all of their wealth in trusts, both locally and offshore.
All these tax shelters, meticulously crafted and protected over many years and generations could have been blown wide open to scrutiny by Sars. There must have been a collective sigh of relief amongst SA’s truly wealthy that the issue of revenue versus capital did not end up for deliberation in the highest court in the land.
So for the time being, the legal status quo remains.
Arriving in South Africa
I witnessed first-hand how Dave King, who arrived in SA with very little money from his native Scotland in 1976, first came up with the idea of starting Specialised Outsourcing (SO) in 1993/94.
This was during one of several rounds of golf we enjoyed together with his lovely wife Ladina on the lush fairways of the Dainfern Country Club where we both were members in those days. I don’t play golf much any more and Dave now does his golfing at esteemed courses such as River Club in Sandton and Augusta in the USA. See what a billion or two does to your social acceptability levels?
But I digress. Dave mentioned several times his idea and even at one stage invited me to join this new company of his. In a nutshell, SO was set up to handle the treasury functions on behalf of government and parastatals. These bodies, King always would say, were so bad at handling the billions that were sloshing around in their accounts, that he offered to manage these funds in exchange for a percentage of the profits. And it turned out to be a great success story and SO soon became the darling amongst mainly small-cap fund managers in the country.
So it was with a great deal of interest that I watched from afar how he went ahead, set up the company and eventually listed Specialised Outsourcing in 1995 at a price of, if my memory serves me, R1.20 a share. The share price of SO eventually peaked at R80 a share before it came crashing down in 1998/99 when the market got wind of the fact that King had sold most of his shares.
Irma Stern painting
King’s problems really started, I was told first hand, when he bought an Irma Stern painting at an auction for R1.7 million in 2000.
This was the first time that a Stern painting achieved a price of more than R1 million and this fact obviously caught the attention of the media, and ultimately also that of nuggety Mr Charles Chipps, a special investigator at Sars who, quite simply, read about the Stern-sale in a newspaper and decided to check up on the tax status of the buyer. To his astonishment he found that King declared a taxable income of a mere R60 000.
And thus was born what is today known as the King-versus-Sars battle which has raged for more than 13 years, on several continents costing, as I indicated earlier, hundreds of millions of rands in legal fees on both sides.
I understand that the legal fraternity in the Sandton area declared a national week of mourning when the final agreements were signed and accepted by the various parties to this extraordinary battle.
I say first hand, as I heard it from Charles Chipps himself who, at about the same time, was sniffing around my own tax affairs. Nought came of this investigation but it was done on the basis of rumours of untold wealth hidden away in some secret location.
This taught me two things about the tax man. Don’t flaunt your wealth in a conspicuous manner and second, don’t be surprised if your best pal/ex-wife/ex-girlfriend makes Sars their first port of call. “Jealous people,” Chipps told me, “are often the best source of information for the tax man”.
Chipps passed away a year or so ago and was therefore not around to collect his commission cheque from Sars for his hard work and diligence.
One of the reasons for settling with Sars and paying the R700 million fine was, as King said at the time, in order to move on with his life and to get stuck into more productive things, like building up the JSE-listed company MICROmega (MMG), of which he still is chairman and major shareholder.
So it is again with more than a passing interest that I have been following the performance of MICROmega on the JSE this year, especially since the settlement in August.
In July this year the share was still trading at R2 a share with very few trades. The news of the settlement set this share price free and since then it has rocketed by almost 500%, at one stage reaching almost R20 per share but trading at around R12.30 this week.
Profit of R860 million
Now here comes the most astonishing fact. King, via his family trusts owns about 83 million shares in MMG, which means King has made a gain of R830 million in three months, all due to the almost vertical increase in the share price of MMG.
On paper therefore King has made back all of the money he handed over to Sars earlier this year –and more.
“There is a difference between R700m in cash and a paper profit,” King noted wryly this week, “ but it does feel good,” he said when I made contact to check these facts – he at least still taking my calls. As I put the phone down to end the call, I realised there was still one question that remains unanswered.
Who today owns the Stern painting in question? Dave King or Sars?
Whoever owns it has the most expensive painting ever by a South African artist hanging somewhere on a wall.
*Magnus Heystek is investment director at Brenthurst Wealth. Contact him for ideas and suggestions at magnus @heystek.co.za
DAVE KING has been ruthlessly axed as a Rangers director for daring to question Craig Whyte’s regime.
South-African based King was told by e-mail late on Friday afternoon he had been kicked off the beleaguered club’s board.
Record Sport believes the latest boardroom change will be announced on the Plus Market today with Ibrox sources insisting King’s dismissal is punishment for objecting to Whyte’s dealings.
Rangers fans will be shocked by this latest departure as many of them saw King as the man who would save their club.
King was alarmed when we revealed the new owner had mortgaged four years of season tickets to raise £24.4million.
The deal with Ticketus was done without the previous board’s knowledge and although Whyte later said he’d been left with a £7m bill from Ticketus, he was quickly slapped down by the man who sold him the club last May.
Sir David Murray firmly denied Whyte had been left to pick up a Ticketus tab.
King was the last link between Whyte’s board and the old guard but he has been dumped just as chairman Alastair Johnston, chief executive Martin Bain, financial director Donald McIntyre and Paul Murray were after the takeover.
RANGERS director Dave King’s seized South African vineyard sold at auction yesterday for a bargain £4.75million.
Tycoon Wendy Appelbaum snapped up 194-hectare Qu foroin Rock after it was valued at £10milllion.
The stunning estate in Stellenbosch, whose wine is endorsed by golf legend Gary Player, was taken by the South African authorities in July to help pay 56-year-old King’s £250million tax bill.
A source said: “Wendy has got herself an absolute bargain and was clearly delighted.”
“I imagine King feels sick. This only makes a small dent in what he owes the taxman.”
Appelbaum, 50, is the daughter of billionaire philanthropist Sir Donald Gordon, 81, whose vast empire includes Braehead shopping centre, near Glasgow.
Policeman’s son King, from Castlemilk, Glasgow, was beaten by Craig Whyte in his bid to buy Rangers.
King is the last survivor of the old Ibrox board since Sir David Murray sold the club to Whyte, 40, for £1 in May. He still owns five per cent of Rangers.
Two years ago, we revealed he had put his three million shares in the name of his elderly mum in Alexandria, Dunbartonshire.
Sir Isaac Newton told us why
An apple falls down from the sky
And from this fact it’s very plain
That other objects do the same…
If it was up to the courts to rule on the Laws of Gravity, we’d probably spend years hearing legal arguments that an apple falls from the ground up to the tree.
Up until recently I thought that I was more or less keeping in touch with the general shape of the developments as Rangers FC heads into perdition as a well-deserved consequence of the scandalous running of the club for at least the last twenty years. The charge sheet includes three separate instances of tax fraud which could total nearly one hundred million pounds in unpaid monies to the Treasury. It also includes routinely running up a preposterous level of debt with no serious prospects of repaying it other than by adding it to the already over-extended overdraft of Murray International Holdings, a liability which eventually exceeded one billion pounds and played its part in the collapse of the Bank of Scotland and its subsequent bail-out, funded by the UK tax-payers. We’re looking at one of the biggest corporate scandals in Scottish business history. One would be forgiven for expecting jail sentences to have been handed down to the guilty parties long before now.
And yet I’m beginning to feel that this whole case is becoming too Pythonesque to make any sense. The latest bizarre twist is the surreal sight of the Administrators of Rangers FC applying to the Court of Session to be appointed … the Administrators of Rangers!
It’s particularly frustrating to me that there seems to be very little overlap between easily understood, natural justice and the immensely complicated procedures of the Law.
Tens, if not hundreds, of millions of pounds have been ripped off by various parties involved with Rangers FC and MIH and it looks increasingly likely that those responsible for these scams are still in with a shout of getting something out of it, even if Rangers itself goes down the pan.
Every time that it looks as if anyone is going to get their comeuppance, another bizarre legal wheeze appears out of thin air, in defiance of all common sense, which muddies the waters and makes it appear that there is always a possible escape route for the shameless and the dishonourable. Amidst the carnage of the revelations about how Rangers FC has been conducting its business, one of the club’s former directors is still proposing that he will play a leading role in taking the wreckage for which he is partly responsible and turning it into a successful business after it has been liquidated. There has not been one word from Mr Paul Murray about his moral duty to repay the colossal debts which the club ran up under his stewardship; not a single syllable to suggest that he feels the slightest shame about his part in the reckless business practice of the directors’ board of which he was a member. No repentance, no remorse, no sign of a guilty conscience.
I have got more money than the likes of David Murray, who was knighted for services to business. Unlike Sir David, I am not in debt to the tune of six hundred million pounds. Yet he is the one who is still living like a king. An entire bank went to the wall to enable that man to enjoy the luxurious lifestyle to which he has accustomed himself. And he’s not even in the picture yet, as far as the Law is concerned!
The Law is taking an eternity to get its act together. Somehow, when tasked with a case in which somebody pursues his own objectives by spending hundreds of millions of pounds of other people’s money, m’learned friends spend months and years dragging out a tortuously slow series of procedures. They forensically examine every conceivable interpretation of every obscure contention. It is as if their primary objective is to find the route by which the most blatant wrongdoing can turn out to be perfectly legal. And to charge by the hour as they proceed at a glacial pace.
Now, for the first time, I’m genuinely beginning to fear that a fix is in whereby there will once again be no punishment for the villains of the piece while the decent, honest little guys will be the only victims (cf bonuses for bankers).
Something stinks very badly here. The media, on an industrial scale, have relentlessly covered up as much of the criminality as they possibly could, even after much of it was already public knowledge. They have weakly claimed in their defence that libel laws prevented them from publishing known facts about the affairs of Rangers and its various directors, even when these facts were already matters of public record.
To take but one example: it would clearly be in the public interest for journalists to regularly scrutinise the ongoing, chaotic tax affairs of Mr. Dave King, Rangers’ second largest shareholder and until very recently a member of the board of directors. The South African Revenue Service is pursuing literally hundreds of charges of tax irregularities against Mr. King and yet I can think of no example of a single journalist asking the obvious question: why has such a man been a senior director of what we are often told is Scotland’s second biggest institution?
This is not an unreasonable question for a decent investigative journalist to ask, nor would it require much research to pad out. Merely to copy half of what has already been published in South African newspapers would raise the question. What is it that prevents the editors of our national newspapers from pursuing this story? Could it be that their experience in their profession tells them that, no matter how grievous the fraud, the Law will usually find a way to give psychopathic predators a free pass so long as they wear suits and ties? And therefore, in their judgement, it is always safer to back rogues who have a place in the Establishment rather than trust in the Law’s ability to ensure that justice is done in major scandals?