Armsdeal ‘graveyard’: commission tackles 3.4m pages

2013-08-12 18:50

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The arms deal commission of inquiry has begun the process of sorting through more than 3.4 million pages of arms deals evidence it had until recently ignored.

A City Press investigation on Sunday revealed the existence of this evidence, and the fact that it was being stored in shipping containers at the Hawks’ Pretoria headquarters.

In a press statement issued today, commission spokesperson William Baloyi said the commission was “fully aware of these documents”.

“The reasons why we have not collected and analysed them are, firstly, that we do not have sufficient safe storage facilities and, secondly, the state in which the documents are (for example, there are no indexes for the documents).”

Baloyi said the commission was “fully briefed by some of the officers who were involved in the investigation and are au fait with the contents of these documents”.

He said they expressed doubt as to whether “the bulk of them could be of any assistance to the commission’s investigations”.

“The commission then had to decide whether to embark on a time consuming and costly exercise of scanning documents which may turn out to be of no use to the commission or to rather lead the evidence of the relevant officers who would be better placed to know which of the documents are relevant.”

Despite this, Baloyi said the “commission has nonetheless decided to proceed to scan the documents and service providers are being engaged to do that”.

He said the arms deal hearing, due to reconvene on August 19, would not be affected because the subject matter scheduled to be dealt with did not relate to the evidence in the containers.

“[The container evidence] is information that relates to the terms of reference that will be considered in subsequent hearings,” he said.

On Sunday, City Press revealed that only about 1.3 million pages of evidence, which relate largely to the criminal investigation into the relationship between President Jacob Zuma and his former financial adviser, Schabir Shaik, were in the possession of the commission.

A further 3.4 million pages of evidence, which had been gathered by the Scorpions in successive investigations, had not been scrutinised by the commission.

The Arms Procurement Commission, headed by Judge Willie Seriti, was appointed by Zuma in 2011 to examine allegations of fraud and corruption in the estimated R70 billion arms deals.

The commission has come under fire for a so-called “second agenda”, which is an alleged attempt to protect Zuma and other senior ANC politicians from being implicated in arms deal corruption.

The commission has been rocked by the resignation of two senior staffers who admitted that they had quit to protect their integrity.

It also had to deal with the departure of Judge Frans Legodi, one of the commissioners, mere days before it was due to convene public hearings.

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