By Lee-Ann Alfreds

President Jacob Zuma received “financial benefit” from the arms deal. And there was “prima facie” evidence of corruption involving the president and related to the deal, the Arms Procurement Commission heard last month.

Testifying on 18 and 19 May before the enquiry which is investigating allegations of fraud and corruption in South Africa’s 1999, R71-billion deal, police Colonel Johan du Plooy, one of the longest-serving arms deal investigators at the Directorate of Special Operations (more familiarly known as the Scorpions), said there was “prima facie” evidence of corruption against Zuma.

“The (prosecuting) team believed there is a prima facie case against the president,” he testified in response to a question from chairperson Judge Willie Seriti as to whether there were documents to “establish a prima facie case against anybody”.

Acting National Director of Public Prosecutions Mokotedi Mpshe in April 2009 dropped corruption charges against Zuma relating to the arms deal because of “political interference in the investigation”. Zuma has consistently denied the allegations of graft.

Du Plooy was part of the investigating team that led to the conviction of Schabir Shaik – who was found guilty in 2005 on charges of fraud and corruption for paying Zuma R1.2-million to further their relationship and for soliciting a bribe of R500 000 annually for Zuma from French arms company Thomson-CSF, as well as guilty of fraud for writing off more than R1-million of Zuma’s unpaid debts.

He testified before the commission that he believed Shaik and Zuma had had a corrupt relationship.

Quizzed on whether Shaik had made payments to Zuma merely because they were friends, Du Plooy insisted:  “I believe as investigator Schabir Shaik used President Zuma to obtain the stake in ADS (African Defence Systems which won a big arms deal contract) and into the arms deal, and the payments he made to the president was not just for the sake of friends or comrades, it was also for his own benefit, and mostly for his own benefit in the arms deal and also other projects.

However, the question of their comradeship, friendship, historical ties was also not ruled out, Du Plooy clarified, “but it was not a reason why the president assisted Schabir Shaik, and Schabir Shaik asked for the president’s assistance. It was for financial benefit for both.”

Influential people involved

Du Plooy named Zuma; Fana Hlongwane, who served as special adviser to then Defence Minister Joe Modise at the time arms manufacturer BAE was chosen as preferred bidder to supply aircraft; BAE agent Richard Charter; and John Bredenkamp (the Zimbabwean-born arms-and-tobacco baron whose company received the largest “commission” payments from BAE) as people who had received payments from the deal. He said German investigators had also alleged Department of Defence chief of acquisitions Chippy Shaik, Schabir’s brother, had received a kickback.

“If you look at the informal manner, in which President Zuma received payments from Schabir Shaik and Schabir Shaik received payments from ADS, via Thomson, who had shares in ADS. I can say, yes, he received. Fana Hlongwane received in respect of a covert system … There is a Richard Charter … I know Bredenkamp …

“That I know about. I cannot prove it, say like for Fana Hlongwane, here are the bank statements. That I can prove.”

Hlongwane is alleged to have received R280-million from BAE for work related to the arms deal. Investigations in the UK and USA revealed BAE – which is alleged to have paid out more than £115-million in bribes in SA’s arms deal – operated a system of overt and covert payments to ensure it won defence contracts.

But Du Plooy acknowledged there was no prima facie evidence against anybody but Zuma in millions of documents, emanating from South African investigations, which had been stored in containers at the Directorate for Priority Crime’s Pretoria headquarters. The Commission has not looked at these documents.

He did point out that the containers did not include documents from German investigators who are believed to have proof that Chippy Shaik solicited a $3-million bribe from ThyssenKrupp, who won the right to supply frigates.

He said he believed there was no “political will” to source these documents, as well as paperwork related to other international investigations that show evidence of corruption in the deal.

He said it was this lack of political will – not a lack of prima facie evidence – which had eventually led to him recommending to his superiors that the investigation be closed.

“In the end as I stated, if you look at all the memorandums, the difficulty of the challenge, I came to the conclusion there is no political will. It may be strong, but I felt that I am not going to get anywhere.”

He said while he did not have “any proof of a prima facie matter in respect of any government official that would have influenced the awarding of the main contracts”, there were “many documents that shows that there are red flags that may be followed up”.

The commission – which has been granted an extension to the end of this month – will hear closing arguments from 22 June.