‘Motlanthe not involved in deal’

2012-09-29 00:00

DEPUTY President Kgalema Motlanthe was emphatically not involved in a business deal to supply helicopters to Iran.

Nor did his partner, Gugu Mtshali, ever solicit or accept a bribe in connection with the transaction, the Public Protector (PP), advocate Thuli Madonsela, said at a media conference in Pretoria yesterday.

At Motlanthe’s request, Madonsela’s office undertook a full-scale investigation into allegations that he and Mtshali were improperly involved in the deal.

The couple insisted from the outset that they had done nothing wrong.

The PP investigation followed a Sunday Times report in August that Mtshali and her associates had been accused of lending political support to the South African company 360 Aviation — in exchange for R104 million — to obtain the helicopter contract.

According to a report, independent auditing firm Grant Thornton had found officials of the Department of Trade and Industry grossly negligent in providing a letter of government support to 360 Aviation for the R2 billion deal with Iran.

The transaction fell through.

The Sunday Times reported that Mtshali, her business partner, Joe Mobweni, and Raisaka Masebelanga, a former high-ranking De Beers employee, met 360 Aviation MD Barry Oberholzer in a Johannesburg restaurant in February 2011 and that the government’s support was promised to Oberholzer in exchange for R104 million.

According to the report, a sound recording of the meeting revealed that Masebelanga had negotiated R10 million for the letter and a further R94 million in shares for continued government support for the deal.

Madonsela said yesterday Mtshali had indeed been present during a part of the February 17 meeting, but her “few” words there were, “No, Joe” and “Come on, Joe.” Mtshali did not solicit or accept a bribe.

Madonsela said the recording and a transcription of it were investigated.

She said Oberholzer, “the so-called whistleblower”, had made the recording and provided a transcription of it.

The transcription misrepresented what had been said at the meeting.

The part dealing with what Mtshali had said was not true, according to Madonsela.

The PP’s office made their own transcription of the recording, which differed from the first one.

Madonsela said 360 Aviation obtained the letter of support from the department’s Riaan le Roux.

Motlanthe never helped 360 Aviation obtain the contract, she said.

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