Publication: Natal Witness Issued: Date: 2001-08-29 Reporter: Editor:

Arms Deal Evidence Attacked


Publication  Natal Witness
Date 2001-08-29
Reporter Sapa


The state has launched a vigorous attack on the evidence of a key witness in the public hearings into the arms deal, saying "huge self-interest" is behind his actions and threats of litigation.

CCII Systems MD Richard Young has alleged widespread flaws and inconsistencies in the evaluation of bids, something he says prejudiced him.

Young, who lost out on a multimillion-rand contract dealing with the supply of a combat suite for corvettes on the arms deal, is the only witness before the commission who says he has evidence of irregularity in the awarding of contracts.

Advocate Michael Kuper, who represents the state in the public hearings, raised questions on Young's motives during sometimes unfriendly cross-examination in Pretoria yesterday.

Kuper elicited a concession from Young that the combat suite his firm was selling was "somewhat less than one percent" of the corvette deal.

Said Kuper: "If there was a conspiracy so vast [then those] people and companies were merely ganging up against a small percentage [of the Corvette deal], I think."

After Young's counsel objected to the questioning, saying it seemed designed to "gain advantage in future civil proceedings", Kuper said his questions were to test Young's bona fides.

Kuper forced Young to divulge the names of the media that Young went to on what Kuper termed "an active campaign to disseminate your grievance".

Kuper said: " Is it correct to say that you have deliberately sought media exposure? Would you list to us the media, both visual and print, to which you have taken your story?"

Young's lawyers objected, saying "the media is entitled to ask questions and to report on them. We have recourse to all channels - informal and formal, legal and commercial".

Kuper was unrelenting. He said Young's testimony contained "wide-ranging accusations and innuendo. Have you really satisfied yourself that this is the way you want to launch your attack?"

He also probed Young's assertion that he had "some of the documents" in digital form but they had been deleted. He suggested there is no such thing as "a classified document in digital form and unsigned".

Young refused to divulge the names of senior people who gave him information in public, saying he had released those to the other agencies probing the controversial R43 billion deal.

The refusal attracted another sharp comment from Kuper. "It is only the public protector and the public hearing that are not entitled to candour and the truth."

He said the a legitimate expectation that Young would win the contract was never created. "Do you realise there were about 50 bidders on all levels who were successful or unsuccessful? Does it surprise you that, except for your company, the process has resulted in no litigation at all?"

With acknowledgements to Sapa and Natal Witness.