Arms Deal Witness Tells Hearing of Threats
A key witness at the hearings into the multi-billion rand arms deal complained on Monday that he had been threatened with legal action by another party involved in the proceedings.
This matter was raised by Adam Pitman, for Communications Computer Intelligence Integration (CCII) Systems managing director Richard Young, when the hearings resumed in Pretoria on Monday morning.
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.
Public Protector Selby Baqwa, chairperson of the presiding panel, ruled that Young required permission from Defence Minister Mosiuoa Lekota to testify to ensure that his evidence would not compromise state security.
He 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 - the sister company of African Defence Systems (ADS), of which arms acquisition head Chippy Shaik's brother, Schabir, is a shareholder and director.
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 on Monday morning.
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 could 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 on Monday morning, enabling him to testify without hindrance.
Pitman, however, persisted that this did not amount to totally unqualified consent.
Michael Kuper, for the department of defence, described the minister's authorisation as "perfectly adequate".
With acknowledgements to SAPA and The Star.