Denel employee in court for alleged attempt at selling secrets


A Denel Dynamics employee and a businessman have been arrested and have appeared in court in what a Sunday newspaper says was a “sting” operation by the police’s Directorate for Priority Crimes Investigation, commonly called the “Hawks.” The case has been postponed to February 22 for further investigation.

The paper says the duo allegedly thought they were selling “valuable missile weapons technology” to Israel but it turned out to be an elaborate sting by investigators of the “Crimes Against the State” unit. The City Press reports Daniel Steenkamp, 39, from Hartbeespoort, west of Pretoria – who has worked for Denel for the past 15 years – was last month arrested together with Johannesburg businessman Anthony Viljoen, 46.

Denel Dynamics researches, develops and manufactures a range of advanced surface-to-air, air-to-air and other precision guided missiles as well as unmanned aerial vehicles.

The two men appeared in the Pretoria Regional Court on December 21 on charges of theft, fraud and contravening the 1982 Protection of Information Act and copyright legislation. They were also charged with contravening a section of the National Conventional Arms Control Act that stipulates that “no person may trade in conventional arms unless registered with the secretariat and in possession of a permit authorised by the committee and issued by the secretariat”.

Bail was set at R20 000 each and the accused were warned to report to the police regularly and hand in their travel documents. Steenkamp was instructed to hand his Denel Dynamics access card to the investigating officer, the paper added. Hawks spokesman Colonel McIntosh Polela said the case “involves highly sensitive issues relating to state security” and that he could not disclose details of the probe or the sting operation.

Denel group spokeswoman Sinah Pochana described the incident as “a security breach” which the company took seriously. “Denel was aware of the arrest of an employee of its division Denel Dynamics on suspicion that he was attempting to sell local technology to a foreign agency,” she said to the paper.

The City Press added cryptic notes in the court file, made by Magistrate Antonie Klopper, indicated that the state had set up a sting operation in which “missile technology was offered for sale to Israel”. Hardware and software in relation to the “product” had allegedly been provided, together with unspecified photos of Denel Dynamics. The state, which was represented by Advocate Torie Pretorius in court, apparently confiscated a Hummer vehicle and mirror images of computer hard drives. The state argued that it had a “strong case” and had already obtained most of the witnesses’ statements, and that the accused did not pose a threat.

Pochana said that Denel had a “respected reputation” as a responsible supplier of a wide range of defence-related technology, equipment and services to the local and international defence market.

Viljoen’s attorney, Rudolf Buys, said his client needed more information from the state about the charges, but maintained that he had been innocently implicated in the affair. Steenkamp’s attorney, Heinrich Steynberg, said his client could not comment since they had no insight into the investigation and very little had been explained about the grounds for the charges.

Denel, in a statement, added it has provided its fullest support to the investigating authorities. “The company views any contraventions of security prescripts or breaches of trust in a very serious light and will continue to give its unequivocal support to state agencies who are investigating the alleged contraventions of national laws. As the matter is currently sub judice Denel cannot comment at this time on the nature of the charges or any details relating to the case, nor individuals allegedly involved in this case.”