Tony Yengeni Faces Arms Fraud Trial
Prominent politician Tony Yengeni goes on trial on Tuesday charged with fraud and corruption linked to the multi-billion-dollar arms deal.
Yengeni (47) former ANC chief whip and Michael Worfel, a German who is former head of European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co (EADS) in South Africa, will appear in a Pretoria court.
"The main charge against Yengeni is corruption, failing which he will be charged with fraud on the same matter. The second charge against him is fraud," said Sipho Ngwema, spokesperson for the Directorate of Public Prosecutions.
Yengeni is the most high-profile ANC politician to be tried in connection with the 1999 deal for planes, ships and submarines whose mounting value was last put at R66-billion.
The deal was initially hailed as a major boost for South Africa's struggling economy that would generate investment worth R104-billion and create 65 000 jobs through sub-contracting.
But South Africa's biggest post-apartheid arms deal was soon marred by charges of corruption and overspending.
At the heart of Yengeni's trial on Tuesday will be a shiny blue four-wheel-drive Mercedes Benz ML320 he is alleged to have bought at a discount of close to 40 percent in 1998.
Woerfel is alleged to have arranged a substantial discount on the luxury car for Yengeni.
Yengeni was arrested in October 2001 and appeared in court. He resigned as chief whip of the ANC 24 hours later.
The former ANC guerilla, who once said driving his car was like flying a jet, says he is a victim of a political witchhunt by unspecified political foes. Analysts said the case was a strong signal South Africa was fighting corruption.
"It sends out an important message to the political elite that if they are involved in corrupt practices and abuse office, there's they'll face criminal charges," said Hennie van Vuuren, senior anti-corruption researcher at the Institute for Security Studies.
With acknowledgements to Wambui Chege and www.iafrica.co.za