Admiral in charge of frigate acquisition denies contracting irregularities

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Rear Admiral Jonathan Kamerman, who was in charge of the acquisition of four frigates for the South African Navy as part of the 1998 arms deal, has denied there were any irregularities in the contracting phase of the project.

In testimony to the Arms Procurement Commission this week, Kamerman denied that he had been bribed by the German Frigate Consortium, the preferred bidder in the acquisition of the frigates, and said that it was not suspicious that he joined ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems several months after his 2006 retirement from the Navy. ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (TKMS) was part of the Consortium.

Yesterday Kamerman denied allegations of corruption and other irregularities contained in statements provided by the MD of C²I² Systems’ Richard Young (who won four of seven arms deal contracts and had two cancelled), and a joint statement by former African National Congress MP Andrew Feinstein and arms deal researcher Paul Holden, Business Day reports.

In 2006, TKMS’s offices were raided by the German state prosecutor over allegations of corruption in the frigate contract. “The search warrant stated in writing that I was not being investigated as an accused, but as a witness and a person of interest on the ground that I had in my previous career as a naval officer been central to ensuring the selection of the GFC as prime contractor and had left the South African Navy without permission to join ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems,” Kamerman said.

He added that no incriminating evidence was found and added that he had recommended the Spanish frigate offer over the German one and that he had indeed received permission to leave the Navy, presenting a signed letter from the Chief of the Navy.

Kamerman also denied that former arms deal chief of acquisition Shamin ‘Chippy’ Shaik influenced the frigate and combat system selection process. Shaik’s wife worked for African Defence Systems (ADS), which was awarded the tender for the combat suites. The Rear Admiral said that Shaik left the room when combat suite matters were raised after indicating in December 1998 that there may be a possible conflict of interest due to his wife’s employer. Apparently ADS was chosen as the local main contractor and integrator for the ships because it was the only local company able to take on the task.

From 1997 to 2006, Kamerman was in charge of the Sitron project and his role, as the project manager, was pivotal to the evaluation and selection process of the Meko corvette and later to the supervision of the construction of the four Meko A200 corvettes in Hamburg. After joining TKMS in Hamburg he was in charge of the marketing and the sale of the Meko family for the Middle-East and Africa (with the exception of South-Africa).

The Arms Procurement Commission, chaired by Judge Willie Seriti, will over the coming weeks witness testimony by high level people involved in the arms deal, including former Deputy Minister of Defence, Ronnie Kasrils, former Minister of Defence, Mosiuoa Lekota, former Minister of Finance, Trevor Manuel, and former President Thabo Mbeki,

Former chief negotiator in the arms deal, Jayendra Naidoo, is scheduled to appear before the Commission on 30 May. Kasrils will appear on 2 June, followed by Lekota (3 June), Manuel (10 June) an Mbeki on 12 and 13 June.



The Strategic Defence Procurement Package (aka ‘arms deal’) saw South Africa gain four Meko A200SAN frigates, three Type 209 MOD1400 submarines, 26 Saab Gripen fighter aircraft, 24 BAE Systems Hawk Mk 120 Lead-In Fighter-Trainers and 30 AgustaWestland A109 light utility helicopters. BAE Systems has been probed over bribery in the sale of the Hawks and Gripens.