Publication: The Star Issued: Date: 2001-03-25 Reporter: Rapule Tabane Editor:

Car Allegations are Hogwash, says Yengeni

Publication  The Star
Date 2001-03-25
Reporter Rapule Tabane
Web Link

Tony Yengeni, the African National Congress chief whip, has protested his innocence in the face of allegations that he assumed ownership of an expensive Mercedes-Benz 4x4 by questionable means. 

A Sunday newspaper ran a story asking how a vehicle ordered by a company involved in the R43-billion arms deal ended up in Yengeni's possession. 

Yengeni was head of the joint standing committee for defence which played a role in the decision to buy arms in the first place. 

It was reported that the vehicle, valued at R359 000, was ordered as a private staff vehicle by DaimlerChrysler Aerospace (Dasa), but a few days after it was delivered to Johannesburg, it was registered to Yengeni. 

Dasa has secured, through a joint venture, a contract to supply tracking radars for the corvettes bought in the arms deal package. 

In a statement on Sunday, Dasa's successor said the company had never tried to gain unlawful advantage in the R43-billion arms deal and had at all times adhered to international standards of business practice. Michael Woerfel, the MD of European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company, said his company had noted the report "connecting a vehicle belonging to Tony Yengeni with a contract for Reutech radar systems, in which Eads has a 33 percent stake". Woerfel said his company's business practice throughout the world was to adhere strictly to the law. 

Yengeni told The Star on Sunday that the allegations concerning the car were "lies and hogwash", but he refused to give details of how the vehicle was acquired. "Given the seriousness of the allegations, I will ask my lawyers for advice on the contents of the article," he said. 

"There is an investigation into the arms deal, and that is the only process I will submit myself to. I will only answer questions to the public protector, the auditor general and the directorate of public prosecutions, and no-one else. "I see no reason why I should submit myself to an investigation by a newspaper when they themselves asked for an official investigation. "The allegations about my car were raised many moons ago and I dismissed them as rubbish, and I stand by what I said." 

Yengeni said he would not resign from any positions and that it was unlikely that the ANC or Parliament would take any action against him. "They cannot move on the basis of allegations made by a person who received information anonymously. There must be a due process of law that determines the wrongfulness of a person." 

Meanwhile, Sapa reports that Dr Gavin Woods, the chairperson of Parliament's watchdog public accounts committee, said he hoped the newspaper investigation would give impetus to a "rather lethargic" official investigation into the arms deal. It was important for investigative journalists to investigate such allegations, given the concerns many people had about the official probe, he said. 

Woods said, however, that Yengeni should be allowed to give hi s version before conclusions could be drawn. 

With acknowledgement to Rapule Tabane and The Star.