Tax authorities said on Monday they found no record of half-a-million dollars stolen from South Africa's president being declared at customs, rekindling a scandal threatening Cyril Ramaphosa.
The $580,000 he has said was payment for 20 buffalo bought by a Sudanese businessman three years ago is at the centre of allegations that almost cost Ramaphosa his job and endanger his chances of securing a second term after next year's elections.
The businessman Hazim Mustafa confirmed he paid cash for animals in interviews with British media.
But the South African Revenue Services said in a statement that "after an extensive search", record of the money having been declared at customs -- as legally required -- "could not be found ... or may not be in existence".
The statement did not name Mustafa directly, referring instead to "a certain traveller".
It was issued in response to an information request filed by the largest opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA), seeking to establish whether the Sudanese businessman had declared the sum upon entering South Africa.
The revelation adds to questions surrounding the 2020 cash theft from Ramaphosa's luxury farmhouse.
His spokesman Vincent Magwenya said, "The obligation to declare the money... was for the buyer to fulfil on arrival and not for the management of the farm during receipt of payment."
The scandal which erupted in June has tarnished Ramaphosa, who was championed as a graft-busting saviour after the corruption-tainted tenure of predecessor Jacob Zuma.
Ramaphosa has acknowledged $580,000 in cash that was hidden beneath sofa cushions at his residence at the ranch was stolen, and has denied any wrongdoing.
"We now know that the president... had hidden dirty dollars, which had entered the country illegally," said the DA leader John Steenhuisen.
In December, Ramaphosa narrowly escaped a parliamentary vote that could have initiated proceedings to remove him from office over the affair.