Minister linked to dodgy aviation company that flew Madiba

2012-06-01 00:00

CAPE TOWN —  Deputy Communication Minister Stella Ndabeni is one of the directors of the controversial Phoebus Apollo Aviation company.

The group is being sued by the South African Revenue Service (SARS) for R264 million.

The Witness reported yesterday that in 2007 Phoebus Apollo was criminally charged with racketeering, tax evasion and smuggling, among other things.

Ndabeni said yesterday that the case had been thrown out of court.

She was unaware that the case was still proceeding in the civil court.

“The company has been flying VIPs around since 1994. I joined the company long after it started,” Ndabeni said when asked about a possible clash of interests between her directorship and her position in government.

Ndabeni told sister paper Beeld that Phoebus Apollo did no work for the Department of Communication.

She joined Phoebus Apollo as a director in July 2011.

Yesterday, Ndabeni referred Beeld to Hendrik “Highway Hennie” Delport, who owns Phoebus Apollo.

Delport denied that he and his company owed the tax man anything.

“All the allegations are incorrect. SARS has been conducting legal action against me and my company for ten years now, without any success. I owe them nothing.”

SARS spokesperson Adrian Lackay told Beeld earlier that the case against the company had been proceeding in the civil court since 2008. “There is no way they cannot know,” Lackay said.

Documents seen by Beeld indicate that SARS was also investigating the possibility that the planes being used by Phoebus Apollo, including the DC-9 that flew former president Nelson Mandela to Mthatha on Tuesday, may have been brought into the country illegally.

Beeld was also able to establish that:

• The plane that transported Mandela is owned by Fulela Trade and Investment, which has one shareholder, Joachim Cilliers.

• In a sworn statement to the North Gauteng High Court Cilliers said that the plane is on permanent hire to Phoebus Apollo, which makes the aircraft available to the South African Air Force.

• The air force uses the plane “in many operations”, including transporting troops to the African interior, and transporting cargo and VIPs.

Brigadier-General Xolani Mabanga, a spokesperson for the Department of Defence, said on inquiry yesterday that information regarding the use of the aircraft by the air force was “classified”.

Ndabeni said she saw nothing wrong with being associated with Phoebus Apollo, as the court had dismissed the criminal case. “The company is not guilty of anything.”

SARS still contends that the criminal case was dismissed on a technicality and that it (SARS) will appeal the decision.

The National Prosecuting Authority was approached for comment, but had not responded to any inquiries at the time of going to press.

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