Man Who Blew Whistle on Arms Deal Vindicated
Crusader: Richard Young
Electronic boffin’s eight-year crusade to expose the truth
As Judge Hilary Squires read his judgment this week, a 46-year-old electronics boffin looked away from the TV screen in his Cape Agulhas home, punched the air and said “I knew it! *1”
Richard Young questioned the arms deal eight years ago sparking one of the country’s biggest corruption investigations.
Young raised objections in 1998 to processes in the government’s Strategic Defence Acquisitions Programme the “arms deal” contending that French company Thomson-CSF, renamed Thint, was being favoured.
And when the African Defence Systems consortium, in which Shaik had shares, mysteriously beat Young’s own company to win a subcontract for a control system on the navy’s new corvettes, his objections turned into a crusade to expose the truth about corruption in the deal.
Young’s crusade has included forcing the Auditor-General to hand over unedited versions of the first arms deal investigation report, days of testimony before the Public Protector. He said his battle to get to the truth had cost more than R6-million in legal expenses.
He was branded a stubborn nuisance and a case of sour grapes, while ANC secretary-general Kgalema Motlanthe accused him of being “the real source of the current saga”.
This week, Young said the world had finally been forced to confront the truth, at least about Thomson’s winning tender.
Young said: “[The judge] said everything I wanted him to say, and a lot more. I have so much admiration for Billy Downer and his team. But I also know I’ve made a difference, by alerting people to what was really going on, and in that so many more people are now prepared to step forward and blow the whistle on corruption.”
Having learned the wizardry of electronic warfare as a soldier in the former SADF, Young started a defence contracting company, C²I², which spent seven years developing a combat “information management system” for the four corvettes the navy was buying.
His homegrown systems were so advanced that, in a later civil court case, Judge Hennie Nel confirmed that they are now used on the latest US aircraft carrier, the USS Ronald Reagan.
However, despite what he calls a “legitimate expectation” of winning the bid to supply the system for the corvettes, the deal went to Shaik’s sister company in the Thomson group.
Young sued the Department of Defence, Armscor and ADS for R149-million in 2002, but the case is only now getting under way.
He said the three respondents (sic - defendants) had filed their pleas in the past three weeks. Young said the judgment in the Shaik trial had turned an already strong case into a sure thing for him.
“It’s going to be quite hard for ADS and Thomson to be able to defend against my claim,” he said.
This week, Judith February, manager of the political information monitoring service for Idasa, said Young’s case would become “part four *2” in the arms deal series , following the Auditor-General’s inquiry; Parliament’s Select Committee on Public Accounts inquiry; and the Shaik trial.
“We had a very unsatisfactory parliamentary process in 2001,” she said. “The interesting thing about Richard Young’s contribution was that he used the Access to Information Act, and got lots of documents from government. He proved that the legal system works, but only if you’ve got deep pockets.”
Young said corruption-fighting had become a “lifelong commitment”, and that he would continue his crusade “until there are no corrupt men left to fish out” *3
With acknowledgements to Rowan Philip and the Sunday Times.
*1 Actually I said: "But that's what I said."
*2 Soon coming to a High Court, near enough to you.
*3 More profitable and, sadly, safer than spearing yellowtail on a Saturday afternoon in False Bay, but quite unsavory.