Celebrity chef Lusizo Henna gets jail time for cooking books

The commercial crimes court in Palm Ridge handed celebrity chef Lusizo Mvula Henna a 10-year sentence for defrauding the tax authorities of more than R5-million.

The 41-year-old celebrity chef wept uncontrollably as magistrate Phindi Keswa handed down her sentencing on Monday.

Henna, who has been a chef since 2003, was convicted on six counts of fraud and sentenced to six years of imprisonment on 14 counts of money-laundering.

Keswa said the money, fraudulently paid to Henna, could have been used to improve the country’s infrastructure.

“These funds are intended for the public, and the impact goes beyond financial losses,” Keswa said.

Undue VAT refunds

Phindi Mjonondwane, the spokesperson for the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), said Keswa found that Henna, as owner of Blaque Olive Chefs, claimed undue value-added tax (VAT) refunds totalling R5.3-million, of which the SA Revenue Service (SARS) paid out R3.1-million to Henna.

“There were no trading activities in Blaque Olive’s bank accounts resembling these claims,” Mjonondwane said.

“The court found that these claims were solely submitted to defraud SARS.

“After receiving R3.1-million in his bank account, Henna laundered the R3.1-million in 14 days by transferring the proceeds of the scheme to relatives, friends, and others related to him.”

Evidence in aggravation was presented on behalf of SARS, explaining the damage to the fiscus as a result of schemes such as these.

Strong message to looters

Advocate Marius Oosthuizen submitted that only direct imprisonment would be appropriate as crimes against the fiscus have a detrimental impact on the government’s ability to render services.

It was further submitted that dealing harshly with offenders of schemes like these would improve South Africa’s grey-listing status in respect of financial crimes.

He added that it was important for the justice system to send a strong message to looters of the fiscus that they would be treated harshly.

Mjonondwane further expressed that the NPA applauds the commitment of Oosthuizen and the investigation team for their efforts in holding Henna accountable for stealing from the fiscus.

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