Arms Witness Threatened with Legal Action
A key witness at the hearings into South Africa's
multi-billion rand arms deal today complained that he was threatened with legal
action by a party involved in the proceedings. This matter was raised by Richard
Young, the systems managing director for Communications Computer
Intelligence Integration (CCII), when the hearings resumed in Pretoria earlier
Young was supposed to start testifying two weeks
ago, but the hearing was postponed to sort out possible contraventions of
secrecy provisions in his testimony. Selby Baqwa, the Public Protector and
chairman of the presiding panel, ruled that Young required permission from
Mosiuoa Lekota, the Defence Minister, to ensure that his evidence would not
compromise state security.
Young was expected to testify about alleged
irregularities in the awarding of a R40-million tender for information
management systems used in the four Corvette ships South Africa bought as part
of the arms package.
Young claims his
company was named the preferred supplier of these systems. The tender was later
awarded to French company Detexis. It is the sister company of African Defence
Systems (ADS), of which arms acquisition head Chippy Shaik's brother, Schabir,
is a shareholder and director.
Computer Intelligence Integration
CCII is a defence
information technology company based in Cape Town. The legal threat came from
ADS, Pitman told the panel before the start of the hearing today. It informed
Young he was at legal risk if he aired confidential or classified information
from the contract document. The first threat was made on August 6, and was
reiterated by ADS in the morning, Pitman said.
He said he had been
trying for three weeks without success to obtain the contract documents from
ADS. ADS' team thereupon handed Pitman the documents, and he was granted a short
adjournment to study them.
Martin Kriegler, for
ADS, said Young would not get immunity from legal action should his evidence
contain statements defaming or compromising the company.
Last Monday Lekota
ruled that Young only testify if he refrained from referring to confidential and
classified documents. Young has insisted on being allowed to testify without
constraints. He received another letter from Lekota today, enabling him to
testify without hindrance. Pitman, however, persisted that this did not amount
to totally unqualified consent.
With acknowledgment to Sapa and SABC News.