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More arms deal allegations surface

altTony Yengeni, former chairman of Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Defence, apparently signed a R6 million kickback deal with a German company involved in a sale of frigates as part of the Arms Deal according to the Mail & Guardian.

This is yet another allegation to surface in the weeks running up to public hearings by Judge Willie Seriti’s Arms Procurement Commission at the beginning of August.

According to the weekly, German detectives found a copy of the agreement when they raided ThyssenKrupp offices. ThyssenKrupp, according to the paper, led the consortium that sold four corvettes, later re-classed as frigates, to South Africa.

Yengeni refused to confirm or deny the allegation. He told the paper “I’ve got nothing to say on all you’re saying”.

“The latest allegation significantly adds to evidence that the main contracts in the controversial arms deal were tainted by corruption, contradicting a 2001 finding by the multi-agency joint investigation team that sub-contracts, at most, were affected.

“Bribery is grounds for cancelling the multibillion-rand contracts for trainer and fighter jets, corvettes, submarines and helicopters government entered into at the turn of the century,” the weekly reported.

The government, perhaps fearful of the international repercussions, has resisted such a conclusion. But Judge Willie Seriti's arms procurement commission, which starts public hearings in August, will face a barrage of new evidence to that effect according to the Mail & Guardian.

German investigators raided ThyssenKrupp's Düsseldorf headquarters in 2006 after tax authorities became suspicious of payments made in the course of the South African arms deal.

AmaBhungane, the paper’s investigative unit, said it has seen correspondence in which detectives involved in the investigation discuss some of the evidence found.

Among the gems in the haul was an agreement allegedly signed by Yengeni and Christoph Hoenings, an executive of Thyssen Rheinstahl Technik, a ThyssenKrupp predecessor company.

Hoenings was a key protagonist in the Thyssen-led German Frigate Consortium's campaign to sell the corvettes to South Africa.

Allegedly concluded when Hoenings visited South Africa in September 1995, the agreement promised Yengeni 2,5 million deutschmark (R6million then) on conclusion of the campaign to sell the corvettes to South Africa.

Hoenings, who has since left Thyssen, refused to comment, saying from Düsseldorf: "I do not speak to the press, please understand this, thank you."

The Seriti commission had originally planned to start its first round of public hearings into allegations of bribery, corruption and other improprieties during the course of South Africa acquiring fighter jets, led-in fighter trainers, light utility helicopters, maritime helicopters, diesel-electric submarines and stealth frigates in March. This was postponed because of what Commission spokesman William Baloyi called “the increasing amount of documentation that has to be analysed by Commission evidence leaders”.

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