Bid to sell SA arms secret to Israel

2011-01-15 15:59

A Denel employee and a businessman have been arrested in an ­investigation into the alleged theft of valuable missile weapons ­technology from Denel Dynamics and a plan to sell it to Israel.

City Press has established that the “security breach” allegedly ­involved a deal which the accused had thought was a sale to Israel, but which turned out to be an elaborate sting by top South African ­investigators.

Daniel Steenkamp (39) from Hartbeespoort, north of Pretoria – who has worked for Denel for the past 15 years – was arrested ­together with Joburg ­businessman Anthony Viljoen (46).

They appeared in the Pretoria ­regional court on December 21 on charges of theft, fraud and contravening the Copyright and ­Protection of Information acts. They are also charged with contravening sections of the National Conventional Arms Control Act which stipulate 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”.

Hawks spokesperson 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.

The case is being investigated by the Crimes Against the State unit which is part of the Hawks.
Denel’s group spokesperson ­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.

Magistrate Antonie Klopper’s cryptic notes in the court file ­indicate 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 ­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.

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.

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.

The case has been postponed to February 22 for further ­investigation.

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