4 pieces of evidence the arms deal commission 'ignored' - court papers

Policemen walk outside the North Gauteng High Court. (Schalk van Zuydam, AP, file)
Policemen walk outside the North Gauteng High Court. (Schalk van Zuydam, AP, file)

Corruption Watch and the Right2Know campaign have released new evidence which they say shows that the arms deal commission of inquiry failed to conduct a meaningful investigation into the multimillion-rand arms deal.

In an affidavit filed in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria on Thursday, Corruption Watch's David Lewis pointed to several instances where the commission failed to follow up on critical leads it had been given.

The evidence forms part of judicial review proceedings, in which Corruption Watch and Right2Know want the commission's report declared invalid.

READ: New evidence shows arms deal commission 'ignored critical evidence of wrongdoing'

They filed supplementary papers on Thursday, after receiving a portion of the commission's record.

Some of this detail has been leaked to the press and reported on, but according to the applicants, the record now shows that there was hard evidence of wrongdoing in the hands of the commission that it did not follow up on.  

Here are four balls the commission allegedly dropped:

1.       Bell Helicopters 'refused a bribe'

Bell Helicopters was one of the companies who put forward a bid to provide the light utility helicopters. Bell allegedly pulled out of the race because they were asked to pay a bribe, and they refused. According to documents submitted as part of the court case, the commission contacted Bell about this allegation and asked for more information.

Bell replied, saying it was happy to co-operate. The commission responded, noting Bell's response, but only followed up with a request for a meeting two years later. The commissioners travelled to Texas to meet Bell representatives in 2014. In its final report, the commission said: "Bell Helicopters was not aware that any bribe had been requested of it."

Bu Lewis says a record of the Texas meeting shows this is not true. Bell indicated that it was leaned on to make an "advance payment" and pay a "monthly fee" to Futuristic Business Solutions (FBS) for "offset services" ahead of the bidding process. The assumption was that the company would lobby on behalf of Bell. Chippy Shaik reportedly introduced Bell to FSB.

Lewis says the commission should, at the very least, have asked Bell to make a statement to the commission or appear before it to give evidence.

Instead, "the commission appears to have made no attempt to investigate the substance of these claims further", Lewis added.

2.       The British Serious Fraud Office's (SFO) information.

In the commission's final report, it said that it approached the British SFO for information and ultimately, it was informed that the Brits had no information beyond what was contained in an affidavit made by one of its investigators to justify the Scorpions' raids on Fana Hlongwane and his associates, around 2007.

Lewis says the record clearly shows this to be untrue. The commission spoke to the SFO on issues not contained in that affidavit. But the commission did not disclose everything that it knew about the SFO's investigation.

Much of this detail is contained in correspondence between the Scorpions and the SFO, which had been exchanging information related to their investigations.

All this correspondence was available to the commission and yet, in several instances, the commission appears not to have wanted to follow up on these leads.

3.       Thabo Mbeki's 'intimate meeting'

According to court papers, the Scorpions and the SFO had discussed a dinner attended by former president Thabo Mbeki, Diliza Mji, Richard Charter, Sello Phalatse, and Niall Irving, in 1998.

Investigators described the meeting as "intimate".

At the time, Mbeki was the deputy president and head of the ministerial sub-committee overseeing the arms deal selection process.

The Scorpions told the SFO that they were probing Mji, who apparently held shares in one of the companies controlled by BAE. The SFO was also probing Charter, who was an overt and covert agent and "consultant" for BAE. His companies received millions of rands. Irving was a BAE employee and Phalatse was a non-executive director of Armscor during the arms deal selection process, Lewis said in his affidavit.

All of this was made clear to the commission in documents provided to it by the Scorpions and the SFO. Any "reasonable" person would have followed up on this meeting, the applicants said.

The fact that Mbeki was not asked about this meeting, and none of the others were called to give evidence, with the exception of Charter who has since died, is evidence that the commission "failed to conduct a meaningful investigation", Lewis says in the affidavit.

4.       Stella Sigcau

Also contained in the record is another document from the SFO, supplied to the commission by researcher Richard Young and former Hawks investigator Johan Du Plooy. The document is a letter from a BAE official, on a BAE letterhead, to a BAE official, Terry Morgan.

In the letter, the official describes what appears to be a bribe given to former public works minister Stella Sigcau in exchange for her help in making sure BAE was awarded a contract to supply Hawk and Gripen fighter planes to the South African government.

The letter says that the company was on the contract shortlist because of the help of Sigcau. It reads:

"One friend who was, and remains, absolutely critical to our ultimate success for both Hawk and Gripen is Minister Stella Sigcau…”

The letter goes on to say Sigcau is "a princess in the African culture" and that the breakdown of her daughter's marriage had caused her severe embarrassment.

"In the coming months, she wants BAE… to provide a marketing job for her daughter in London. Such a job would have to pay sufficiently to provide a reasonable quality of life for the minister's daughter and her two children. As you would expect, in view of the criticality of where we are in the decision-making process and our fundamental reliance on the minister's support, I gave all the right assurances to the minister that we would very positively help her to address this personal matter."

BAE appears to have been offering to help Sigcau's daughter set up a life in London to escape the shame of her divorce, in exchange for her support on the arms deal contracts.

Sigcau died in 2006.

Lewis says the commission did not address this issue at all, in spite of having seen this letter. He says the commission did not address the issue in its report, nor did it ask BAE to speak to the letter or call Sigcau's daughter.

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