Gordhan Told by S. Africa Police He’s Not a Suspect, Paper Says

  • Finance minister said spy rumors, accusations are ‘malicious’
  • Ruling ANC said reports of imminent arrest were ‘planted’

South African Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan was assured by a special national police unit that he isn’t a suspect in its investigation of a tax-agency unit and won’t be arrested, the Johannesburg-based Sunday Independent said, citing correspondence to his lawyers.

“At this stage, there should be no reason for the minister to be concerned,” Berning Ntlemezall, head of the so-called Hawks police unit, wrote in a letter to Gordhan’s lawyers on Friday, the newspaper said. “I hope this will allay the minister’s fears.”

Gordhan, 67, has been in a public feud with the police unit since his appointment in December over a special investigating agency established in the South African Revenue Service in 2007 while he was tax commissioner. The minister has said that based on legal advice, establishing the unit was lawful, it performed its tasks within the law and was funded through the normal budgetary processes applicable to the tax authority.

The Sunday Times newspaper reported on May 15, citing people it didn’t identify, that Gordhan was at risk of being charged with espionage, and fired, once the police unit completed the investigation. The speculation drove the rand to a two-month low on Monday. The president’s office had denied the Times’ report.

Gordhan, in an e-mailed statement on Tuesday, said the rumors and accusations that he was involved with espionage are false and “malicious.”

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