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Harksen man tells of DA links

2002-08-14 22:07

Cape Town - More evidence of Jürgen Harksen's links with the Democratic Alliance - including a cheque for a R500 000 donation - has emerged in testimony at the Desai Commission.

The evidence came from a former associate of Harksen's, self-styled construction developer Tony Karsten.

Karsten earlier this year spilled the beans on the German after falling out with him about a R2.5m investment, handing over documents which resulted in Harksen being charged in South Africa with fraud of about R60m.

Harksen, wanted on similar charges in Germany, was at Wednesday's hearings, sitting next to his attorney, Michael Luck, and listening intently to Karsten's testimony.

The German, who is in protective custody, was attended as usual by a bevy of police bodyguards.

At one point, Judge Siraj Desai ordered the heavily armed guards out of the hearing, saying it was "a bit disconcerting to have firearms in the auditorium".

Karsten told the commission he wrote out the R500  cheque on Harksen's instructions after a fundraising get-together addressed by DA Western Cape leader Gerald Morkel.

Morkel and DA fundraiser Leon Markovitz had both thanked Harksen for the "very generous offer".

'Deutschmarks in the envelope'

Karsten said the cheque was drawn on his own family trust, the Voyager Trust.

He could not remember how much money had been in its account at that time, but Harksen had said he would transfer funds to meet the cheque.

At a later meeting at the provincial legislature building, Markovitz wanted to know when he could present the cheque at the bank.

During either that meeting or a subsequent one, Harksen gave Markovitz a package "like an envelope".

Karsten said: "I was led to believe there were Deutschmarks in the package."

The Voyager cheque was never cashed, and Harksen later told him he had sorted out the DA directly with "brownies" - slang for 1 000 Deutschmark notes.

Karsten also testified that he was present at a fundraising luncheon for the DA organised by Harksen at Uitsig Restaurant in Constantia.

At the lunch, Morkel mentioned to Harksen that he had to leave the provincial premier's official residence, Leeuwenhof, and that he needed funds to rent a property in Higgovale.

He could not remember the exact amount Morkel wanted, but it was probably in the region of R70 000.

Harksen has claimed before the commission that he paid Morkel's rent for the new apartment - a claim Morkel denies, along with all Harksen's claims he gave funds to him and the DA.

Karsten said Harksen was in daily contact, either through meetings or over the phone, with Morkel and Markovitz.

Changed R7.7m in Deutschmarks

Asked how the three men referred to each other on the phone, he said: "They had a code; number one or number one A or something like that."

Karsten also told the commission that during a two-year period he processed about R7.7m in Deutschmarks for Harksen.

He said Harksen usually gave him the equivalent of between R300 000 and R500 000 at a time, which Standard Bank would change to rands.

Some of the money would be deposited in the Voyager Trust, and the rest would be handed in cash to Harksen.

The attorney acting for the trustees of Harksen's insolvent estate, Bernard Kurz, told the commission the R500 000 cheque was the only one that clearly related to a donation to the DA.

Kurz said he sorted through more than a quarter of a million pages of documents seized by the trustees from Harksen, his wife and the Voyager Trust.

The Harksen and Voyager accounts reflected a substantial number of cash cheques, one for R1.8m, and it was difficult to know what was done with this money.

Kurz also said the evidence another attorney, Earl Hunter, gave the commission under oath on Monday was "at variance" with his testimony to the closed Harksen insolvency hearings.

Hunter told Desai that Harksen had recommended his services to Morkel to set up a trust to receive donations to the party.