The investigative arm of South Africa’s National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has raided the Centurion offices of BAE Systems as well as well as the offices and homes of two men central to repeated allegations of wrongdoing related to the R47 billion 1999 strategic defence package.
NPA spokesman Tladi Tladi says the NPA’s directorate of special operations – popularly known as the Scorpions – raided seven premises in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape yesterday morning.
He would not say which premises were raided but said they belonged to more than one entity.
Tladi says the raids are part of an “authorised investigation into the arms deal under the NPA Act”. He adds it is not a new investigation and was not in support of requests from Britain where the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) – the British equivalent to the Scorpions – have been probing the alleged payment of bribes to secure arms contracts.
“The purpose of the investigation is to seek corroboration [of] allegations related to the deal. It is at too early a stage to say if there will be any arrests.”
Newspapers and SABC television news say the NPA is investigating charges of fraud and corruption surrounding the acquisition of 24 BAE Systems Mk120 lead-in fighter trainers for R7.2 billion and 26 Saab JAS39 C & D advanced light fighters for R19.908 billion.
The Times reports investigators raided the homes and offices of Fana Hlongwane, advisor to the late defence minister Joe Modise at the time the SDP was concluded, as well as the home of controversial businessman Johan Bredenkamp.
Hlongwane is currently chairman of the Ngwane Defence Group and its Illovo, Johannesburg, offices were also raided.
The Star says a SFO request to SA for legal assistance in 2007 notes that Hlongwane had entered into a general consultancy agreement with BAE Systems in 2002 for which he was paid a retainer of a million pounds (about R16-million) a year. “In 2005 there was a further agreement to pay $8-million (about R80-million) as a settlement to Hlongwane in connection with work done on the Gripen project,” the paper adds.
Britain`s The Independent newspaper says Bredenkamp, once a backer of Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe stands accused by the SFO “of improperly profiting from a deal to sell fighter aircraft to South Africa.”
The Mail & Guardian reported in March that the SFO believed BAE Systems had paid “than R1-billion in ‘commissions` on the South African deal.”
A Saab spokesman says the company`s offices were not raided.
Meanwhile, Democratic Alliance MP Eddie Trent has written a letter “to all interested persons” to appeal for assistance in reopening a Parliamentary investigation into the deal.
“I appeal to you to send through any information that may be of use to us and to assist us in taking the issue of the Arms Deal further at Parliament.
“This information will be given to SCOPA [the Standing Committee on Public Accounts] as a public submission. The submissions should be concise (a maximum of two to four pages would be ideal) and aimed at convincing SCOPA that you have compelling concise evidence to support a new investigation, in particular, evidence that has emerged subsequent to 2000, and that you are willing to give oral evidence to the committee.”
Trent adds he has also “after numerous attempts” succeeded in persuading his SCOPA colleagues to follow-up on recommendations made regarding the SDP in the committee`s 14th and 15th reports on the programme in November 2000 and December 2001 respectively.
“Sadly, I was unable to get SCOPA to agree to invite people to give oral evidence on the Arms Deal. However, SCOPA has agreed to the following actions:
- SCOPA will submit questions to the relevant department or agency requesting written information or responses to the SCOPA recommendations. Based on the replies, SCOPA will decide whether or not to call the respondents to give oral evidence; and
- Members of the public who believe that they have information that could add weight to the argument that the investigation into the Arms Deal should be re-opened and investigated by an independent body are invited to make written submissions to SCOPA, after which they may be asked to give oral evidence.
“I believe that a door has been opened and it is our intention to cast the net as widely as possible,” Trent says.