Pik: Claim for payment bothered me even then

2008-07-04 00:00

"This matter bothered me even at the time, as I suspected that individuals were enriching themselves under the cover of an arms deal and pocketing large amounts of taxpayers’ money in the process."

This was former South African foreign minister Pik Botha’s reaction to the news of a Portuguese arms broker’s $300 million claim against Armscor.

In the 1990s, after his department was approached about the dispute regarding the payment of commission to Jorge Pinhol, Botha ordered an investigation into the claim.

"Our biggest worry was that the case could damage diplomatic relations between South Africa and Portugal.

"So we didn’t actually look at details of the deal, but only at whether he had a valid claim to commission," Botha said.

In the late ’90s Botha even met with Portuguese generals and Pinhol in Lisbon to get details of the deal.

In the deal, helicopters were to be supplied to the Portuguese Air Force by Aerospatiale, and the Portuguese were to issue the end user certificate for them.

The Portuguese retained only a few of the helicopters, and the rest were shipped to SA.

It is believed former Armscor officials have supplied statements to Pinhol confirming that there was an agreement that he would receive the commission.

Botha said the South African ambassador in Portugal compiled a report of findings, a copy of which is in Pinhol’s possession.

"Two months ago he [Pinhol} informed me that the claims are now going to court … . However, there is no possibility of my testifying in the case — everything happened such a long time ago. He simply keeps me in the picture as a goodwill gesture.

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