Publication: Independent Onlin Issued: Date: 2001-01-26 Reporter: Editor:

No Official Threat to Arms Info - Heath Unit

Publication  Independent Onlin
Date 2001-01-26
Reporter Sapa
Web Link

There had been no official indication that the government would use legislation to force Judge Willem Heath to disclose evidence he claims to have of corruption in the government's R43-billion arms deal, Heath's special investigating unit (SIU) said on Friday.

This was after Justice Minister Penuell Maduna on Thursday threatened to use the Criminal Procedure Act's notorious Section 205 against Heath.

Spokesperson Naomi Goodley said the SIU and Heath had not received official notification that Maduna would use the legislation against Heath. Heath would not comment on the threat without official notification.

Heath and the government have been at loggerheads for weeks over the government's controversial R43-billion arms procurement programme.

Heath would not comment on the threat

A number of politicians and government officials are suspected by opposition parties of receiving kickbacks from the foreign arms consortium behind the deal.

Pan African Congress MP Patricia de Lille, who initiated the investigation, has threatened to take the government to court over the decision and has reported receiving death threats warning her against her insistence on the inclusion of Heath and his SIU.

Heath has refused to hand documentary evidence he claims to have to the government, saying doing so would endanger his sources. This comment incensed Mbeki.

Goodley said Maduna had asked Heath for documentation on which the SIU's application for a presidential proclamation allowing the SIU to investigate the allegations was based.

"We said we had used the Auditor-General's report and the Scopa (the public accounts committee) hearings and report," Goodley said.

'We don't know what further documentation he wants'

"We don't know what further documentation he wants," she said.

Goodley said once President Thabo Mbeki announced that the SIU would be excluded from the probe, several of the unit's informants requested their documentation back. This was in line with legislation, and the evidence had been returned.

Turning to the announcement that Heath would be going on long leave from February 1, Goodley said the judge had requested long leave on January 22 to allow a gap between the unit and himself. This was because of the battle between Heath and the government over the arms procurement controversy.

"He wants to allow the smooth operation of the unit in co-operation with the government," she said.

With acknowledgement to Sapa and Independent Online.