Apartheid skeletons 1980s deal: Armscor ‘sued for $300 mln commission’

2008-07-04 00:00

Johannesburg — A court case in Portugal is threatening to reveal skeletons from the apartheid and sanctions years in Armscor’s closet.

A go-between, who apparently helped to acquire the air force’s 50 Oryx helicopters, is suing Armscor for almost $300 million and the same amount in interest because he never received his commission on the transaction.

It was alleged that some of this money went to former Armscor employees, one of whom apparently bought property in France with his share.

The shipping costs for the helicopter engines were apparently also "loaded" with hundreds of thousands of rands that landed in the hands of those involved.

Armscor confirmed on Tuesday that it is opposing the suit brought in Lisbon.

The company Beverly Securities Ltd belonging to the go-between, Jorge Pinhol, also began legal action against a Belgian bank, KBC, in Brussels.

The bank’s predecessor apparently handled the money transfer from South Africa to the French manufacturer Aerospatiale (today part of Eurocopter).

It was also responsible for paying Pinhol’s commission.

Project Adenia began in the 1980s when the SA Air Force needed transport helicopters.

Pinhol aided negotiations according to which the Portuguese air force, with the quiet approval of the Portuguese government, initially was to buy upgrading systems for South African Puma helicopters.

The negotiations went so well that the order was extended to comprise complete helicopters, to be assembled in South Africa.

The contract was signed in 1988 and the last helicopters were delivered long after 1994.

In 1994, Pinhol was unsuccessful in a Pretoria High Court case against Armscor because he could not provide guarantees to cover the costs.

In 1996, he was also unsuccessful in a claim against Eurocopter in France when the court ruled that his claim had nothing to do with the manufacturer.

Since then he has apparently obtained statements from former Armscor employees.

Armscor recently denied that he was entitled to commission.

The payments, however, have in the meantime been traced to Panama and Liberia, among other countries, with the help of a Swiss auditor who specialises in money laundering.

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