August 5, the date set for the Arms Procurement Commission’s public hearings to start, is less than two months away and as it comes closer those called to testify on allegations of impropriety or other wrongdoing in the multi-billion Rand defence acquisition package will be fine-tuning presentations and statements.
With a set date for testimony to start, interest in what Judge Willie Seriti and his co-commissioners will hear is growing, both locally and internationally.
Public hearings were originally set for March 4 but were postponed because of the increasing amount of documentation to be analysed by Commission evidence leaders, and suggestions as to where other relevant documentation could be sourced, according to its spokesman William Baloyi.
Documents seen by defenceWeb on forensic investigations conducted in Germany mention names well-known to those who have followed the acquisition process and the allegations and denials of bribery and corruption that followed. The German investigation of Ferrostaal covers not only the South African arms acquisition process but also includes submarine deals with two other countries. The supply of offshore patrol vessels, a 100 ton tug boat, various energy generation plants, railways and pipelines are also detailed in the investigations.
From a South African point of view, names mentioned include those of Chippy Shaik, specifically appointed at Armscor as head of acquisitions by the Defence Ministry for the submarine project and his brothers Moe, Schabir (subsequently convicted of corruption and fraud and sentenced to jail) and Yunis. All are said to have had dealings with Ferrostaal in the building of four Type 209 diesel-electric submarines destined for the SA Navy.
Ferrostaal was one of three companies that made up the German Submarine Consortium that built the South African Navy’s Type 209s. The other two companies were Thyssen Nordtsee Werke (TNW) and Howaldtswerke Deutsche Werf (HDW).
Mention is also made of a raid conducted by Dusseldorf authorities on an office in connection with possible bribery of South African officials “in connection with the sale and supply of four corvettes to the SA Navy”.
The document also makes any number of references to consultants and the apparently casual manner in which invoices, lacking in detail, were paid.
Also from Germany, open source information reports said that, “South African investigators at the Arms Commission of Inquiry, probing the controversial R70 billion arms deal, are still awaiting crucial evidence from German law enforcement agencies that could shed light on bribes several high profile ANC politicians allegedly received from the German Frigate Consortium (comprising German naval shipyards Blohm + Voss and HDW – now both part of ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems or TKMS).
“Anne Katharina Zimmermann, spokeswoman for Germany’s Federal Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, could not establish the status of the request for information from the South African government. But the commission began negotiations to obtain the evidence from German authorities in July last year. Negotiations have been under way since. Commission spokesman William Baloyi said he could not respond to media queries within the time frame.
“The information relates to a German investigation into arms manufacturer Thyssen Rheinstahl Technik and several other companies that formed the German Frigate Consortium in 1994 which won the tender to build and deliver four corvettes for the South African navy.
“Thyssen Rheinstahl is alleged to have concluded a commission agreement with Mallar Inc, a company registered in Liberia where it allegedly paid $22 million to be given to South African officials and members of the cabinet. The consortium then allegedly made fraudulent VAT claims on the bribe payment.
“Former ANC Chief Whip Tony Yengeni, who was convicted of fraud in 2003, is allegedly central to the deal as a flight was booked for him in 1996 so he could participate in meetings with members of the German Frigate Consortium. In 1997 German authorities investigated the nine key figures within the consortium for contravening the International Corruption Act and attempted tax evasion.”
Other information from Germany indicates that former SA Navy Rear Admiral (JG) Jonathan Kamerman was “at the heart” of the TKMS system.
“From 1997 to 2006, Kamerman was in charge of the SITRON project (the codename for the procurement of four corvettes): his role, as the project manager, was pivotal to the evaluation and selection process of Blohm+Voss International’s Meko corvette and later to the supervision of the construction of the four Meko A200 corvettes in Hamburg. He had been so deeply involved in this programme that these corvettes were later called ‘Kamerman Klass Korvetten’. He gave the green light to the acceptance of the Mekos: the lead ship SAS Amatola was commissioned on February 16, 2006. A few months later, without any permission from the SA chief of national defence, in October, he took up a senior position at Blohm+Voss International AG in Hamburg. As a Senior Vice-president, 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).”
While these allegations have surfaced before, they should add another dimension to Judge Seriti’s Commission. The first round of public hearings is scheduled to end on November 30. Among those who called to offer testimony are Patricia de Lille, current Cape Town mayor and former ID MP, who is widely acknowledged as being the original Arms Deal whistle-blower.
The 1999 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.