A six page statement submitted to the Seriti Commission by a retired senior Hawks investigator aptly sums up difficulties of the investigation into allegations of fraud and other improprieties around the Arms Deal, officially the Strategic Defence Procurement Package (SDPP).
Phrases such as “different legs of the investigation”, “informal sharing of information without mutual legal assistance processes”, “concerns about information obtained unlawfully”, “suspects passed away” and the “elapse of a long time since the alleged offences were committed” pepper the submission made by retired police major general Hans Meiring.
He also points out the National Prosecuting Authority held the view that the investigation (into allegations of bribery and corruption) was incomplete “not due to the fault of anyone in particular”.
He goes further to say that several companies involved in the supply of front line equipment including frigates and submarines for the Navy as well as fighters, Lead-in Fighter Trainers, light utility and maritime helicopters for the Air Force, do not exist anymore. This will cause even further problems regarding the obtaining of evidential material.
For instance, Gripen International, which was set up by BAE Systems and Saab to market the Gripen, no longer exists and Agusta has become part of AgustaWestland.
Meiring’s statement also makes mention of the fact that some witnesses are no longer employed at companies and institutions involved in the Arms Deal Commission investigation. “It will be very difficult to obtain the necessary information from these companies and/or institutions.”
He also informs Judge Willie Seriti, via his statement, it will be difficult to speak to witnesses now living abroad and to obtain bank documents from foreign countries.
He and a former Hawks colleague, Colonel Johan du Plooy, are the last two South Africans to present evidence in the Seriti Commission public hearings. They will be followed by representatives of BAE and Saab after which the judge and his team will start work in earnest on preparation of their report for President Jacob Zuma.
Since the Seriti Commission started public hearings in July 2013, following its establishment in October 2011, there has been a parade of former Cabinet ministers, including former president Thabo Mbeki, as well as a string of serving and retired air force and navy officers in and out of the witness stand set up in the Tshwane metro council chamber. Senior officials from Armscor, National Treasury and the Department of Trade and Industry have also told Judge Seriti what they know about the multi-billion Rand arms acquisition project, one of the single biggest items of spend in 21 years of democracy.
Former Cabinet ministers who have been subpoenaed include Alex Erwin (Trade and Industry), Trevor Manuel (Finance), Mosiuoa Lekota and Ronnie Kasrils (Defence), while the SA National Defence Force was represented by its current Chief, General Solly Shoke.
Retired and serving military officers who have testified include Rear Admirals Rusty Higgs, Philip Schoultz and Alan Green; Major General Jerry Malinga, Brigadier General John Bayne, Lieutenant General Willem Hechter and former secretary for defence, Pierre Steyn.
Shamin “Chippy” Schaik, head of acquisitions at Armscor for the SDPP, also appeared before the commission as did a number of whistle-blowers and political figures. These included Patricia de Lille, David Maynier, Richard Young and Terry Crawford-Browne.
With a further two month extension granted it to complete its public hearings the Commission’s report is now scheduled to arrive on the President’s desk in the Union Buildings on December 31.