Wafic's Web of Intrigue
|Publication||Mail & Guardian|
|Reporter||Stefaans Brummer and Sam Sole|
In May the Mail & Guardian's sister paper, The Guardian, described Wafic Sa"d as "a former operator of a kebab restaurant who made millions in commissions on a 1985 British Aerospace arms deal to sell Tornado fighters to the Saudi royal family".
Millions is putting it mildly. Sa"d was estimated to have garnered R120 million in commissions on the notorious Al Yamamah arms deal with Saudi Arabia, which also allegedly saw Mark Thatcher (the son of then prime minister Margaret Thatcher) and the then-ruling Tory Party benefiting by millions.
Shortly after the deal went through, Sa"d reportedly donated R1,5-million to the party.
Lord Powell, an adviser to Thatcher, is now chairperson of Sagitta Asset Management, another Sa"d company.
The source of the success of Sa"d has been his close relationship with the Saudi royal family, in particular Prince Bandar al Saud, who is described by The Guardian as "Mr Saud's chief Saudi patron".
Saud's First Saudi Investment Company is part of a Syrian investment consortium that includes Saudi Oger.
Sa"d first made his fortune in the Saudi construction business -- as did Saudi Oger -- the company controlled by Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and which has a 60% stake in local cellphone operator Cell C.
All of which leads us to Sa"d's South African connections.
Prince Bandar has a long association with President Thabo Mbeki and is described by the president's office as a personal friend. It was Prince Bandar who laid on his private aircraft to fly Mbeki to the United States when his South African Air Force jet broke down in London. It is understood that Mbeki was a guest at the Prince's United Kingdom residence at the time.
The Saudi prince has also had an interest in the South African arms industry. South Africa has for some time been trying to sell a large consignment of G5 and G6 howitzers to the Saudi military and a R100 million commission has already been paid by Denel (despite the fact that no deal has yet been done).
It is understood that the Saudis were interested in purchasing parts of Denel in return and that Sa"d facilitated a meeting with a senior Denel official in London.
With acknowledgements to Stefaans Brummer, Sam Sole and Mail & Guardian.