The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) is no longer investigating any cases of corruption related to the 1999 Strategic Defence Package (SDP) and these were now in the hands of the Directorate of Priority Crime Investigation (known as the Hawks), National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) Menzi Simelane says.
“We are no longer responsible for all of that,” he said after a briefing to Parliament’s watchdog Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA). Simelane Friday told SCOPA that this was an accepted outcome of the decision to disband the Directorate of Special Operations or Scorpions, which stripped the NPA of any investigative capacity, the South African Press Association (SAPA) reported.
Its successor, the Hawks, reports to the police instead of the NPA, SAPA added on Friday. “All information has been handed to commissioner (Anwa) Dramat,” he said, referring to the head of the Hawks. Hawks spokesperson Musa Zondi said that the unit was indeed investigating allegations of SDP corruption but he was not at liberty to discuss the cases. The files were handed over to the Hawks at the unit’s inception in July 2009, he added.
Simelane said he had “no idea” whether businessperson Fana Hlongwane was still in the cross-hairs since he recently instructed the NPA’s Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU) to abandon a court application to freeze assets in Lichtenstein allegedly linked to shady arms deals. The AFU was responding to requests from European investigators who suspected the money could be traced back to bribery and corruption by British defence company BAE Systems.
The Scorpions believed BAE Systems did not play by the rules when it won a deal to supply Hawk trainer aircraft and Gripen fighter jets to South Africa for about R26 billion, but paid about R1 billion in “commissions” to secure the contract. Simelane’s intervention earned him accusations of effectively burying the “arms deal” probe.
He defended his decision, saying hundreds of pages of reportedly incontrovertible evidence against Hlongwane, a former advisor to late defence minister Joe Modise, turned out to be “not so clear-cut” on closer inspection. SCOPA chairman Themba Godi said that he would call the police to question them about any progress in probing allegations of corruption around the multi-billion rand arms deal inked by the Thabo Mbeki administration.
“When we invited the NPA we wanted to talk to these SCOPA resolutions. The SAPS (the national police) has responsibility for anything that happens further and we would want to know whether, since the transfer took place, there was any progress.”
Pic: Four BAE Systems Mk 120 LIFT of 85 Combat Flying School