Publication: Business Day Issued: Date: 2010-09-09 Reporter: Linda Ensor

Arms deal investigation could take another five years



Business Day

Date 2010-09-09
Reporter Linda Ensor
Web Link

Opposition parties responded in Parliament yesterday, saying authorities are dragging their feet, shuffling papers between different agencies and stalling the investigation.

Cape Town ­ After more than 10 years, investigations into allegations of corruption in the multibillion-rand arms deal ­ including R480m allegedly involving British and German manufacturers ­ are languishing and could take at least another five to 10 years to finalise.

Opposition parties responded in Parliament yesterday, saying authorities are dragging their feet, shuffling papers between different agencies and stalling the investigation, which should be expedited.

Head of the Hawks directorate for priority crime investigation Lt-Gen Anwar Dramat said only two investigations are still active. They relate to the acquisitions by British Aerospace and the German Frigate Consortium (GFC), and involve alleged corruption of R300m and R25m *1, respectively.

South African senior officials are accused of taking bribes from German and British arms makers who secured tenders to sell SA German warships and Hawk jet trainers.

Both investigations are in the hands of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and await critical information from foreign authorities. “But even with information from the authorities the question is whether it is in the best interest of the country to pursue these investigations, which will take at least five to 10 years and cost more than R10m,” Lt-Gen Dramat told members of Parliament’s standing committee on public accounts, which has tried to exercise oversight over the investigation.

With regard to the GFC investigation, a request was lodged with the North Gauteng director of public prosecutions in June for a prosecutor to be appointed to deal with the request for information from the German authorities.

If they co-operate, the investigation could take up to three years before the NPA will be able to decide on possible prosecution.

British Aerospace entered into a plea bargain with the UK’s Serious Fraud Office earlier this year and the investigation was then closed without any consultation with the NPA.

“It is my impression … that what we’ve heard today is that there is an investigation where there are 460 boxes of documents, 4,7-million computer-generated documents and one investigator apparently assigned to that investigation,” David Maynier from the Democratic Alliance said.

Lt Gen Dramat said: “It should be borne in mind that although this matter originated in the year 2000, new information was only received during late 2007 after a full investigation was declared in February 2008.”

NPA chief Menzi Simelane denied that foot-dragging was taking place or that there has been any political interference in the investigations. With Sapa

With acknowledgements to Linda Ensor and Business Day.

*1       USD25 million.

But this was probably only one tranche.

Thomson-CSF almost surely paid its portion of the bribe to win the frigate contract, in this case the combat suite specifically.

All the arithmetic, spreadsheets, encrypted faxes and diaries entries by the French executives including Pierre Moynot and Alain Thetard indicate that Thomson-CSF paid between R250 and R300 million (1999 Rands) to win the combat suite contract.

The Germans even had another bribe amount built in to one of its occult contracts whereby an extra amount would be due if the DoD exercised the option of a fifth corvette.

So much so that the DoD and the GFC tried to do a deal to purchase a helicopter landing ship under the cover of the optional 5th corvette.

But by then all beady eyes, including my own, were watching.