Swedish arms investigators seek SA’s help: report

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Swedish prosecutors want the help of their South African counterparts in investigating the latest round of allegations of corruption arising out of the 1999 strategic defence package, the Sunday Independent reports.

On Friday Gunnar Stetler, director of Sweden’s National Anti-Corruption Unit, dispatched a preparatory letter to the South Africans, enquiring whether investigations had been re-opened in South Africa in response to recent revelations in Sweden. The letter, which, in line with diplomatic protocols, has been lodged with Sweden’s Foreign Affairs ministry, to be sent on to the South African government, notes that details have come to light of what Stetler describes as an alleged “bribery scheme towards South Africa”. The Sunday Independent says it has seen a copy of the letter.

It asks whether in response to the new information, the South African judicial authorities have seen fit to open preliminary investigations.The letter has not yet been forwarded to the South African government. Speaking to The Sunday Independent on Friday, Stetler said this week’s letter was the first step towards securing co-operation from South African investigators in his inquiries. “If they have re-opened their investigation”, he said, “we will be in a position to share information and follow the trail of accounting.”

Meanwhile, the status of South African investigations remains unclear. On June 20, Hawks spokesman McIntosh Polela confirmed that the unit noted the new round of disclosures in Sweden and were looking into the possibility of revisiting the issue. But no further word has been forthcoming.

At the same time, The Sunday Independent has learned that in the fallout from the Swedish revelations, parliamentary watchdog the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) has resolved to call Hawks chief Lieutenant General Anwa Dramat “to explain his decision to call an end to investigations into alleged arms deal corruption.” SCOPA decided to demand, initially, a written clarification of the reasons behind the decision, at the same time reserving the right to call Dramat to address the committee’s concerns in person, the paper said.
“I would have expected that General Dramat would have already been in contact with the Swedish National Anti-Corruption Unit,” opposition Democratic Alliance party SCOPA member and defence shadow David Maynier said, noting that the allegations that a R24 million bribe was paid by BAE Systems to “a South African consultant” emerged several weeks ago, on June 16.

Stetler had been expected this week to announce whether or not charges would be brought under Swedish law in connection with the revelations. However, interviewed by telephone on Friday, he told The Sunday Independent that he would opt to explore the possibility of a joint investigation with the South Africans ahead of announcing a final decision on the matter. The letter was directed to this end.

Justice Ministry spokesman Tlali Tlali said that since the Stetler letter had not yet reached the South African government, it would be premature to comment on the matter. “When we receive it we will give its contents our due consideration,” he said.