Young Wins Right to Challenge Arms Deal
The Natal Witness
As the Schabir Shaik trial approaches a dramatic end, it has emerged that another equally spectacular, high-profile court case related to the multi-billion rand arms deal is poised to begin in South Africa.
Richard Young, the disaffected defence contractor who lost a R150 million bid to supply sub-systems for the South African Navy's new corvettes, has received a judgment from the Pretoria High Court that effectively gives him the go ahead for a trial to contest the deal.
This week Judge George Webster ruled against the legal exceptions raised by the Department of Defence, Armscor and African Defence Systems, the French-owned company that won the contract.
Young lost a R150 million bid to supply the Information Management System (IMS) for the corvettes, after being led to believe, for years, that the contract was his. The massive losses he suffered led him to take the matter to court.
Young submitted his particulars of claim in August 2002, but the three defendants raised legal exceptions aimed at striking out Young's claim for R150 million in damages.
They raised two grounds for exception - one on legal points that Young does not have a valid claim and secondly that the particulars of his claim were not clear enough to support the claim.
The matter went to court in February last year - 18 months after Young submitted his initial claim - and, after nearly a year, the judgement was passed on Thursday.
While the judgment requires Young and his legal team to make minor amendments to the wording of his claim, it effectively finds in favour for Young to go ahead with his trial.
In his judgment, Webster said that to uphold the exception raised by the three defendants would be to "violate our law".
"To say that there is no cause of action in the circumstances of the case is fundamentally repugnant," the judgment read.
In an interview with Weekend Witness yesterday, Young said he is still "98% certain" that he will win his case.
"This is a huge, huge relief. The judgment means I can now go forward with my case and that the defendants will be forced to plead," Young said.
"Pleading is a big thing, and puts a defendant in a really tight spot, especially in a situation like this. It effectively takes me within spitting distance of winning my case. We had no idea which way it would go."
Responding to the judgment, Young said: "You can hardly get stronger wording."
Young said he expects the trial to take place in about a year's time. "We will have to make the updates to the precise wording of the claim which will take about a month - after which the defendants will have to provide a plea. Theoretically they will have to do it in a month. Once the pleadings have closed, we will be in a position to apply for a court date as well as to initiate discovery of evidence from the defendants. This in itself will be a singularly interesting experience. It normally takes about a year to get a court date.''
Young said that to date his court actions have cost him more than R5 million in legal and para-legal fees.
"My legal process has been delayed by two-and-a-half-years." *1
Young, who believes his bid failed because of serious irregularities in the procurement process, has been relentless in his pursuit of justice. He recently made headlines when he was granted access to crucial documents relating to the arms deal. The documents suggest that Cabinet ministers intervened in the drafting of the final report of the investigation into the arms deal.
Meanwhile, Young said yesterday that he does not expect to be called as a witness in the Shaik trial even though his name is still on the witness list.
With acknowledgements to Susan Segar and The Natal Witness.
*1 But the evidence gathering process has had two-and-a-half-years to advance itself.
Sometimes such a delay surely has a very viscous twisty little sting in its tail.