Report Questioned After Claims of Bribery :
The credibility of the joint investigating team's report into the R53bn arms deal was questioned yesterday after disclosures that the Scorpions were investigating allegations of attempted bribery by Deputy President Jacob Zuma.
The team's report exonerated all members of the executive of wrongdoing in the arms deal, which would have been premature were the Scorpions to subsequently undertake an investigation into allegations that Zuma attempted to secure a bribe of R500 000 a year from French defence contractor Thomson-CSF (since incorporated into Thales).
This would be especially so as the team was aware of the allegations at the time it tabled its report in Parliament at the end of last year. Zuma has denied the allegations contained in an affidavit filed by a senior Scorpions prosecutor, William Downer, in August last year as "baseless and mischievous".
The alleged bribe was to be paid in return for Zuma's protection of Thales during the probe and for his support for its future projects. Thales and its SA subsidiary African Defence Systems were part of the German Frigate Consortium, which made the successful bid for the R6bn contract to supply four corvettes.
Former parliamentary public accounts committee chairman Gavin Woods and dissatisfied unsuccessful bidder for part of the arms contract Richard Young both claimed yesterday that the investigating team was aware of the allegations against Zuma early last year.
But no mention was made in the team's report that the allegations were either being investigated or had been dismissed. The report contained a list of other investigations being undertaken by the Scorpions.
National directorate of public prosecutions spokesman Sipho Ngwema denied yesterday that he had confirmed the existence of a specific probe against Zuma with the Mail & Guardian newspaper that provided details of the allegations on Friday and said that an investigation was under way.
Ngwema said he had merely said the investigation into the arms procurement package was continuing and would be wrapped up soon.
The report cited four allegations which were investigated and "found to be without substance".
These included the receipt of motor vehicles by key individuals involved in the procurement process (excluding African National Congress MP Tony Yengeni), allegations of bribery against former defence minister Joe Modise, a link between the arms procurement and the Mpumalanga Parks Board promissory notes, and the appointment of a senior Armscor official to BAe Systems, one of the prime contractors. "Other allegations appeared to have substance and are currently being pursued," the report noted.
Eight matters were under investigation including Yengeni's alleged receipt of a 4X4 vehicle as a gift.
Some related to conflicts of interest by those involved in the acquisition process.
Woods said the public accounts committee had raised more than 100 allegations, at least 50 of which were "serious" and had had a "considered basis" which it had expected the Scorpions to investigate but which were overlooked.
The allegations questioned the involvement of other cabinet ministers and those close to them, Woods said.
With acknowledgement to Linda Ensor and Business Day.