Finally, rapidly, all the pieces of the Arms Deal bribes puzzle are coming together. It won’t be long before all the guilty – from the highest to the lowest in rank – will have been named.
In March, the Sunday Times reported that the Seriti commission had decided to give the ANC and its leaders, believed to be the main beneficiaries of the Arms Deal, a “free pass” without interrogating any party officials or examining its bank accounts.
It quoted a letter from Judge Willie Seriti, dated 26 February 2013, in which he declared that “no evidence implicating the ANC has been brought to the attention of the commission”.
This appears only to have served as a provocation to those who know better.
In June, the Sunday Times reported the imminent publication of a British report that would name both the payers and recipients of bribes related to the South African arms deal. And DefenceWeb and the Mail & Guardian both reported having had sight of a German police report about Arms Deal bribes paid to South African politicians. A bribe deal concluded with senior ANC MP Tony Yengeni was described in some detail.
How come the Arms Deal, nearly two decades after the event, still makes headline news? James Myburgh writing on everfastnews.com in July 2006 gave the answer – in the form of another question: “Although an immense amount of information has come out about President Thabo Mbeki’s involvement in the arms deal, and his efforts to quash the inquiry into it, what has been missing all along is the thing that would explain the motivation behind the ANC leadership’s strange behaviour. Quite apart from all the irregularities later documented in the process of acquiring the arms, what were they trying to hide when they blocked [Judge Willem] Heath, got rid of [ANC MP Andrew] Feinstein, subordinated Scopa, and persuaded the Auditor-General to water down the final [first Arms Deal] report?”
As Myburgh noted, in addition to Mbeki and Yengeni’s having engineered a rerun of the corvette tender process in order to allow the Germans back into the game, “what was odd about the government’s eventual decision to buy the corvettes from the German Frigate Consortium in November 1998 was that they were purchasing them for four times the rand price they could have bought them for in May 1995.”
This, despite the fact that – as even the watered-down official Joint Investigative Team report found – Bazan, the originally favoured Spanish bidder, was still the cheapest, and the only one that met all the navy’s specified criteria.
Thanks to the most recent revelations in the media, we now know that there was something in it for Yengeni (and the Shaik brothers – see below); we also know that the Germans have given serious consideration to allegations from a questionable source that there was something in it for Mbeki.
But what was in it for the ANC? And for the NP, their partners in government at the time? Thabo Mbeki and F W de Klerk worked closely together on Arms Deal matters. De Klerk and Tony Georgiadis – widely accepted by all investigators as probably the largest single channel for Arms Deal bribes and commissions – had been close friends for years; so close that De Klerk divorced his wife, Marike, to marry Georgiadis’s wife, Elita.
There has long been talk (and some evidence) that Arms Deal money went both to the ANC Women’s League (under Winnie Mandela) and the NP women’s league (under Marike de Klerk).
(Some conspiracists have already noted that Marike de Klerk was murdered on 4 December 2001 – the night prior to Auditor-General Shauket Fakie’s delivering his Arms Deal report to Parliament. Might someone have feared what she might disclose as revenge on Georgiadis and her ex?)
Returning to the most recent revelations: first, on 9 June, the Sunday Times reported that British defence contractor BAE had set up a system of offshore, anonymous companies to funnel bribe payments around the world, and that South African companies, businessmen and politicians who allegedly pocketed bribes in the Arms Deal are to be named in a report by Britain’s auditing watchdog, the Financial Reporting Council. The report was said to be due for release “within weeks”.
The British audit that examined the confidential records of KPMG, the accountancy firm which advised BAE on its systems, is expected to disclose the names of influential individuals who helped BAE in exchange for cash, the Sunday Times said.
Almost unnoticed, two days later on 11 June, DefenceWeb said it had had sight of a report by German police on their investigation of Arms Deal bribes paid to South Africans by German defence contractors. The names mentioned in the report were said by DefenceWeb to be “well-known to those who have followed the acquisition process and allegations and denials of bribery and corruption that followed”.
First to feature in DefenceWeb’s story was the German police investigation of Ferrostaal, a member of the consortium that built submarines for the SA Navy. All four Shaik brothers are said to be mentioned by name in this report. [The Shaiks’ top political connections, it is now well known, were (now President) Jacob Zuma and Mac Maharaj, now Minister in the President’s Office. – Ed]
But, DefenceWeb added, “mention is also made of a raid by Düsseldorf authorities on an office in connection with possible bribery of South African officials in connection with the sale and supply of four corvettes to the SA Navy”. Here, the German report is said by DefenceWeb to make “any number” of references to consultants and the apparently casual manner in which invoices, lacking in detail, were paid. (This usually indicates the transfer of funds that are to be disbursed as bribes by the “consultant”. – Ed)
Then, quoting “open source information from Germany”, DefenceWeb revealed that “South African investigators at the [Seriti] Arms Commission of Inquiry, are still awaiting crucial evidence from German law enforcement agencies that could shed light on bribes which several high-profile ANC politicians allegedly received from the German Frigate Consortium”.
It continues: “The information relates to a German investigation into arms manufacturer Thyssen Rheinstahl Technik GmbH (TRT) and several other companies that formed the German Frigate Consortium in 1994…
“Thyssen Rheinstahl is alleged to have concluded a commission agreement with Mallar Inc, a company registered in Liberia [but believed to be controlled by deal-broker Tony Georgiadis] to which it allegedly paid $22 million to be given to South African officials and members of the cabinet.”
DefenceWeb said: “Former ANC Chief Whip Tony Yengeni, who was convicted of fraud in 2003, is allegedly central to the deal, as a flight was booked for him in 1996 so he could participate in meetings with members of the German Frigate Consortium.”
Three days after DefenceWeb’s story went online, the Mail & Guardian appeared with its version of the story. It, too, had got sight of (possibly the same, or similar) German police documents.
So, just what did the German police document contain that so many in the media have recently got to see? It is certainly worth a closer, second look.
The document obtained by Noseweek begins by introducing some of the key German players in the drama, with a thumbnail sketch of each:
Christoph Hoenings was responsible for acquisitions at TRT a subsidiary of the major German heavy industrial and defence group, ThyssenKrupp. He was an authorised signatory for TRT; attended meetings with South African officials and business people; signed consultancy agreements related to the Arms Deal; signed the corvette contract with South Africa; wrote a book called Das Geschäft (The Deal) which was never published but which – said German investigators who came upon the manuscript in one of their search-and-seizure raids – “showed significant parallels to their findings concerning the arms deal with South Africa”.
Sven Moeller was TRT’s representative in South Africa. He made the first contact with Chippy Shaik; allegedly transported 40 million DM [R275m today] in a ThyssenKrupp company jet to Geneva and paid it into an account for Thabo Mbeki. The German police investigators note: “no evidence found yet for this allegation”. (This snippet from the German police report became known, in isolation, as far back as March 2008. See bellow. – Ed)
Klaus-Joachim Müller (“Klaus-J Müller”) was Christoph Hoenings’ counterpart at (shipbuilders) Bohm+Voss (B+V), a partner in the German consortium. He is now director of ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems AG (TKMS); he was responsible for the tender price calculations; included bribes in the tender price; signed the corvette contract with South Africa; and he was informed about the (bribe) agreement with Chippy Shaik.
Jürgen Koopmann was a director of TRT at the time of the tender process. He signed the consultancy agreement with Mallar Inc (a Liberian-registered front company apparently controlled by Tony Georgiadis, deal-broker and alleged bribe-broker); he negotiated with Klaus-J Müller and Herbert von Nitzch (director of B+V) about the inclusion of bribes in the tender price; he was suspicious of receiving kickback payments through Antony Georgiadis and George Z Lanaras; and he met Tony Yengeni the day the bribery agreement was signed by Christoph Hoenings and Yengeni.
Walter Ernst Ulrich Scheel, son of former German president Walter Scheel, worked at TRT with Hoenings on the corvette project; and he had among his computer files a list of code names for South African officials, including Defence Minister (Joe) Modise: “Moritz”; and Deputy Defence Minister (Ronnie) Kasrils: “Karl”.
The German police report then proceeds to tell the Tony Yengeni story, as it emerged from their investigation:
‘During the June 2006 search of TRT, an agreement between Yengeni and Hoenings dated 11 August 1995 was seized. In that document Yengeni was promised a commission of 2.5m DM [then worth R6m].
“In fact,” says the German police investigator in his summary report: ‘I can prove the agreement was signed one month later [in September 1995] during a visit to South Africa by Hoenings, K-J Müller and Koopmann, Yengeni and Hoenings were the signatories.’
“Hoenings, Koopmann and Georgiadis at the same time took part in a meeting with Yengeni in Cape Town at which the agreement was most likely arranged. On his return to Germany, Hoenings arranged a provision for the promised commission of 2.5m DM. This was entered in the accounts of TRT on 28 September 1995 but was removed on 30 September 1997 in connection with the merger of Thyssen and Krupp, ‘probably with the intention to reduce Thyssen’s liabilities’. Since then, no trace of a new provision can be found in the accounts, so that the Yengeni commission could perhaps be part of the money paid to Mallar Inc. It is unlikely that TRT did not pay Yengeni the promised commission at all,” the German investigator notes.
The report continues: “Although we have clear evidence of corruption in connection with Yengeni, we cannot prosecute this fact. Although the Mallar Inc contract, due to the last extension in April 1999, and the payments to Mallar Inc do not qualify [to escape prosecution because of Germany’s
Statute of Limitations] we still need an action by Yengeni after 19 February 1999 [to be able to prosecute]. But by then Yengeni seems no longer to have been in a position to influence the South African decision on the corvette contract.” [But subsequently, as ANC Chief Whip and head of Parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) he was still in a position to subvert any South African investigation that might have exposed the bribes and contracts to cancellation. – Ed]
“Nevertheless the facts of the Yengeni case show that employees of TRT, contrary to their defence statements, did have direct contact, and themselves arranged bribery agreements with South African officials. Before the change of legislation [which subsequently made it a criminal offence for a German citizen to bribe a foreign national], TRT would have been able to deduct the bribe for Yengeni from their company’s tax obligations.
“This explains why they did not disguise the provision and why the agreement was made directly with Yengeni without camouflage.
“Yengeni claimed in front of Hoenings that he had been responsible for the cancellation of the first tender in 1995 [where Spain was the preferred bidder]. As chairman of the Joint Standing Committee on Defence and Chief Whip of the ANC, he could exercise strong influence on decisions relevant for the German Frigate Consortium.
“Hoenings obviously gained information in August/September 1995 that Yengeni had been named as a possible successor to Modise in the course of an expected cabinet reshuffle, which explains why, 10 days later, the agreement was signed.
“We also seized correspondence between Hoenings and Georgiadis about travel costs for Yengeni for a flight from South Africa to Germany, Switzerland and London.
“These documents reveal that Georgiadis booked a flight for Yengeni in October 1996 for 30 October 1996. According to the booking confirmation, Yengeni visited Hamburg (seat of B+V), Zurich and/or Geneva and London on
1 November 1996.
“The booking confirmation is addressed to Tony Georgiadis and was sent to the fax number of Alandis Ltd.
“Attached to the letterhead of Alandis, on 4 November 1996, Georgiadis sent the invoice issued by World Wide Travel to Hoenings with the remark: ‘The attached for your “confidential” file (in case he ever denies having come!).’
“On 5 November 1996 Georgiadis sent another fax on the letterhead of Alandis Ltd to Hoenings. This fax contained an invoice from Mallar Inc, dated 5 November 1996, for US$16,574.00 ‘comprising Progress Air re Cape Town-Lanseria-Cape Town and TY’s airfares of last week’.
“Yengeni’s flight had cost R16,944, so the total sum reflected in the invoice obviously also included payments for other services by Progress Air.
“The invoice asks for telegraphic transfer:
To: Credit Suisse, New York
Account Credit Suisse, London
For credit: MALLAR Inc.
Acc no. 2006411
Attn: J. Defoe-Banton with telex advice to recipient bank, Credit Suisse, London Telex No. 887322 CREDSU G, Attn: J Defoe-Banton
“Payment was made on 8 November 1996.
“Hoenings’s claims for travel expenses indicated that he had met Yengeni and Georgiadis at least seven times between November 1995 and November 1997, in Hamburg, Zurich and Cape Town.
“The meetings in Zurich were of particular interest to the German police. They explain: ‘Hoenings describes in his book [manuscript] Das Geschäft how his protagonist (who appears to be modelled on himself) meets a corrupt Peruvian cabinet member in Zurich in order to arrange a bribery agreement and deposit the signed contract with a Swiss trust company called World Business Trust’.”
The silent middleman
In 2007 the German prosecuting authorities applied to their Swiss counterparts for judicial assistance in obtaining “account information and bank records” relating to bribes paid to South African politicians and officials by the German Frigate Consortium. In their supporting statement, the following passage appears:
“With the help of [previously] seized records, proof can already be led that the above-mentioned [bribe] agreements of Thyssen Rheinstahl Technik GmbH (TRT) were abided by and the promised funds indeed paid. In this way the consortium paid, through the middleman [South African accountant] Ian Pierce, who had signed the commission agreement on behalf of Mallar Inc, US$ 3 million to the South African official Shabir Shaik who acted for Armscor, so that he [Shaik], in violation of his official duty, could promote the conclusion of the agreement for the delivery of the corvettes.”
In November 2001 Noseweek reported: “Ian Pierce, an accountant who is reputed to have several present and former cabinet ministers as clients, and who set up many of the empowerment companies [involved in the Arms Deal and its spin-offs], continues simply to defy a [Scorpions] subpoena to hand over documents.”
The Mbeki hint
In March 2008 the M&G reported that German police were investigating an allegation from a South African source that Thabo Mbeki had received a large bribe paid by TRT into a Swiss bank account.
This single snippet from the much more extensive German report, became known when the German police secretly sought the collaboration of the South African Department of Justice to track down documents and witnesses in South Africa.
When this became known to TRT, the Johannesburg lawyer representing Sven Moeller, TRT’s South African representative, publicly denied – apparently for tactical reasons – the Mbeki allegation, and in support of his denial identified its source as a less-than-reputable German businessman resident in Johannesburg called Nicholas Achterberg.
He then repeatedly petitioned the Justice Minister not to accede to the German prosecutor’s request for assistance in seizing documents and interrogating witnesses in South Africa.
Noseweek has been unable to establish whether the German request was acceded to or not.
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