Publication: Mail and Guardian Issued: Date: 2003-05-21 Reporter: Jacques Keet, Sapa

Scorpions are Still Probing Arms Deal



Mail and Guardian

Date 2003-05-21


Jacques Keet, Sapa

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The Scorpions special investigating unit has yet to complete its probe into certain aspects of South Africa's multi-billion rand arms deal, National Directorate of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) representative Sipho Ngwema said on Wednesday.

He was reacting to a report in Business Day newspaper, which said the government's final report on the arms procurement deal was heavily edited, and left out findings on gifts received by key players in the controversial deal.

The final report, handed over to Parliament last year, also omitted "inaccuracies" in a defence department presentation to Parliament's public accounts committee (Scopa), the newspaper said.

It said this emerged in draft reports released last week to C2I2 electronics company managing director Richard Young, one of the losing bidders in the deal.

Earlier this year, Young won a court action forcing Auditor General Shauket Fakie to give him documents relating to an investigation into the arms deal. Fakie, NDPP director Bulelani Ngcuka and former Public Protector Selby Baqwa investigated the deal.

The newspaper said the differences between the draft documents and the final report provided support to a vociferous lobby that had complained the report was significantly edited before it was published.

Fakie said on Tuesday there were good reasons for not including some items in the final report. He denied the changes were made at the behest of senior members of government, the newspaper said. It said Young was "infuriated" that a crucial finding by the investigators was omitted from the final draft, as it apparently contradicted several earlier statements by Fakie that there were no substantial changes to the final report.

Young told Business Day he had instructed his legal team to formulate charges of perjury, contempt of court, defeating the ends of justice, and offences in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act against Fakie.

Fakie said he was not unduly pressured to remove any part of the report, nor was it improper to exclude from the final report what at first glance appeared to be evidence of corruption.

The three short paragraphs in the gifts-received section did not specifically conclude that prima facie evidence of corruption was found. What was left out of the final, published report was either insignificant or left out deliberately because it was under investigation by the Scorpions, Fakie said.

Ngwema said on Wednesday the directorate had no comment at this stage, as it was still following-up on certain issues. Long after the final report had been handed over, the directorate was still subpoenaing people and probing matters. These investigations were still continuing, Ngwema said.

Young was not immediately available for further comment.

With acknowledgements to Jacques Keet, Sapa and the Mail and Guardian.