News24

German link to arms deal?

2008-03-14 21:29

Johannesburg - ThyssenKrupp lawyers have not written to Justice Minister Brigitte Mabandla in a bid to prevent German arms deal investigators from seizing documents or interrogating witnesses, a spokesperson said on Friday.

South African justice ministry spokesperson Zolile Nqayi told Sapa he was not aware that lawyers for the German steelmaker had written to Mabandla.

The Mail and Guardian newspaper reported on Friday that ThyssenKrupp "desperately lobbied the government in an attempt to head off a German probe into the South African arms deal".

The newspaper reported it had documents that showed a lawyer for ThyssenKrupp representative Sven Moeller had apparently written repeatedly to the minister.

The lawyer, Ian Small-Smith, told Sapa: "I don't have a response to what was reported."

No comment

He did however confirm that he had "acted" for Moeller, but would not provide further details.

Moeller could not be reached for comment, and Anja Gerber, spokesperson for ThyssenKrupp Technologies AG in the German city of Essen, said: "We cannot comment while an investigation is happening."

She said the company was confident it would not be found guilty of any wrongdoing.

German prosecutions spokesperson Arno Neukirchen told Sapa he could not comment on the Mail and Guardian report.

Nqayi repeated his Thursday statement that director general Menzi Simelane was still waiting to hear from "German authorities in respect of their investigation into claims of corruption in the arms deal".

On Thursday Neukirchen said prosecutors in Duesseldorf had responded to a South African request for further details on a 2007 request for mutual legal assistance.

It emerged in July 2006 that German prosecutors were investigating what were described as "irregularities" in a sale of warships to South Africa by German shipbuilding group ThyssenKrupp.

In February 2007, Germany's Spiegel magazine reported that German prosecutors were in possession of internal memos from Thyssen detailing meetings where Chippy Shaik allegedly demanded payment of $3m to ensure the success of the German bid for the contract to build South Africa's four corvettes.

Shaik was the government's head of arms purchases when the contract for the arms package was concluded.

The Spiegel report also contended that "there is evidence of further payments to several people, firms and foundations in South Africa. By October 2001, a total of $22m had been paid to a single company in Monrovia, Liberia".