‘Stolen secrets’: shocks expected

2012-10-27 00:00

SENSATIONAL evidence is expected in court on Monday shedding light on an alleged plot by an official of the state arms manufacturer Denel and his business associate to sell secret missile blueprints to Israel and Russia.

According to the state, Danie Steenkamp, a technician at Denel, had over a period of three months in 2010, copied the plans for the Mokopa missile on microchips and smuggled them out of the high-security complex.

Steenkamp and his partner, Pretoria millionaire businessman Anthony Viljoen, then flew to Israel and allegedly tried to sell the plans for R400 million.

The Israelis were not interested and when they returned to South Africa, the two allegedly attempted to sell the technology to “officials” from the Russian arms industry.

The officials were none other than State Security Agency (SSA) agents, who arrested them in a sting operation.

Steenkamp has been charged with theft, fraud and with contravening sections of the National Conventional Arms Control Act for attempting to trade in conventional arms.

The case resumes in the Pretoria regional court on Monday. A conviction carries long-term imprisonment.

Both Steenkamp and Viljoen are out on R50 000 bail and have pleaded not guilty.

The Witness has reliably learnt that Viljoen, who does business with the Airports Company of SA (ACSA), will change his plea on Monday and turn state witness.

Viljoen is expected to receive a fine of R500 000 in return for co-operating with the state.

His attorney Rudolf Gouws confirmed the charges, but would not confirm that Viljoen has turned state witness.

The evidence in the case is expected to expose a serious security breach in Denel because Steenkamp is alleged to have succeeded in not only smuggling out the blueprints of the Mokopa, but also parts of the missile.

The Mokopa was named after the feared black mamba snake and has been developed by Denel over more than a decade for around R200 million.

It was originally designed to fit on a Rooivalk helicopter, but has since been adapted to enable it to be fired from a variety of platforms.

The missile is deadly accurate for a distance of 10 kilometres.

The missile’s final development was concluded in January last year after a series of tests.

Steenkamp’s initial alleged partner was believed to be Johan Grundling, but he shot himself in March 2010 when SARS officials raided his Broederstroom smallholding.

He had allegedly stolen R100 million in VAT owed to SARS.

Steenkamp is alleged to have teamed up with Viljoen in order to steal the Mokopa technology and sell it to foreign buyer.

After their failed trip to Israel, the SSA got suspicious and after an elaborate investigation set a trap for the two.

SSA agents approached them and pretended to be representatives of officials in the Russian armaments industry, a source close to the case said.

According to the state, Steenkamp and Viljoen allegedly first attempted to sell the technology for $20 million (about R150 million), but later lowered their price to R20 million.

They were arrested on December 20, 2010 and have already appeared in court.

The Hawks unit for crimes against the state has also taken over the investigation.

It apparently took them between three and four months to analyse the hard discs on Steenkamp’s computer.

The security breach at Denel has caused great concern in defence circles.

According to the Defence Department’s latest annual report, the South African National Defence Force’s Defence Intelligence Unit had to implement counter-intelligence measures in the state’s armaments industry.

The head of communications of the department, Siphiwe Dlamini, undertook to provide additional information about these security breaches, but did not do so.

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