Fake news and Gaddafi's loot: two great pre-election spoilers

Noseweek didn’t get the $30m (R417,000,000) version of the Zuma/King Mswati III/Muammar Gaddafi/Nkandla treasure story. That went to the Sunday Times which splashed it on their front page.  Noseweek got an even more implausible $24trillion one. Yes, US$24,000,000,000,000. And mind your naughts: that’s R333,600,000.000.000!

Muammar Gaddafi

Back in 2011 former National Intelligence agent-turned-arms dealer Johan Erasmus and his New Generation Arms Management company were planning to make a killing selling a US-manufactured machine gun called the M134D Gatling minigun to the South African National Defence Force. Classified formally as a weapon of mass destruction, the minigun’s six swivelling barrels deliver 3,000 rounds per minute. Erasmus thought he could supply 400 of them to the SANDF and make a cool R1m profit on each.

One of the miniguns was flown over from Dillon Aero in October 2011 for demonstration to South African Special Forces, which duly took place at the Special Forces school at Murrayhill north of Pretoria. But the following March the Hawks seized the weapon, along with a large consignment of rocket-propelled grenades, machine guns, rifles and ammunition which Erasmus had brought into the country from Bulgaria.

The Hawks claimed irregularities with the import permits. The weapons are all still locked in SANDF bunkers, although last December the Priority Crimes Litigation Unit (Hawks) admitted that, back in 2014, a decision had been made not to prosecute NGAM since it could not be proved that the company had the necessary guilty knowledge when it applied for and received the import permits.

The hiatus, claims Erasmus, forced his NGAM company into liquidation. He maintains that it’s all a plot by Aramco and Denel, who have set their sights on putting him out of business so they can import and sell the minigun themselves, with the connivance of greedy SANDF generals and a helping hand from the Hawks and the South African  Revenue Service.

And it’s those same greedy generals, claims Erasmus, who want to see him destroyed because of his Libya-mandated role as one of the tracers of the missing Gaddafi treasure, on which he stands to gain a 10% recovery fee. 

The Gaddafi treasure story that Erasmus was offering to Noseweek went like this: Before the Libyan uprising of 2011, he said, Hilary Clinton and US President Barack Obama paid Gaddafi the staggering sum of $24 trillion “via France, Belgium and Iraq” to “destabilise Africa”. And within six months of receiving this money, according to Erasmus, Gaddafi was financing the Arab Spring.

Apart from the crazy amount – $24 trillion would have been six times the entire US Federal budget of $3.8 trillion that year – why would Gaddafi be financing an uprising throughout the Arab world that in Libya would displace and kill him?

Anyway, according to Johan Erasmus, $7.8 trillion was hived off this unlikely sum to fund the dream of Thabo Mbeki and Gaddafi for an African bank.

 Johan Erasmus demonstrating the M134D Gatling minigun to SA Special Forces

“It’s fucking serious!” insists Erasmus, who claims that in South Africa the Gaddafi treasure was an ANC operation “controlled” by Jessie Duarte, acerbic deputy secretary-general of the ANC. The loot, maintains Erasmus, was flown to SA in 179 flights aboard South African military and private planes. It came in bank transfers, in gold and 6 million carats of diamonds – nothing smaller than 5 carats.

“The ANC has already stolen more than 10% of the money,” claims the arms dealer. “Zuma shipped off 300 tonnes of gold to Russia to pay for five nuclear power stations. Then they were going to build the power stations and still stick us [the taxpayer] with the bill.”

Where does all this come from? “Well-placed intelligence sources” replies Erasmus vaguely, under pressure naming one of them as George Darmanovich, an agent in the State Security Agency’s Special Operations Unit. As reported in nose231, Darmanovich was killed in a motorbike drive-by shooting in Belgrade last May, a contract hit that Erasmus links to the agent’s role in the Gaddafi treasure hunt.

The Gaddafi cash, claims Erasmus, was deposited in South African banks, including Standard and Nedbank. As evidence, he produces what appears to be an internal memo from Standard Bank’s legal manager Maboi Molepo. Dated 21 May 2013, it states: “We confirm hereby that we hold as of date in different accounts and entities on behalf of Libya the sum of $206 billion (two hundred and six billion United States Dollars).

No indication as to the addressee of this photocopied document.

Only trouble with Erasmus’s “evidence” is that in May 2013 Maboi Molepo did not work at Standard Bank. He was employed at Absa Capital from October 2012 until August 2014. Standard’s spokesperson Ross Linstrom confirms that Maboi Molepo Mashabela did not join them until September 2014 and that “the letter is a fabrication and should not be acted upon”.

In June 2013 AFP reported that South Africa would return assets and cash stashed in the country by Gaddafi. This followed a meeting between then Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and a Libyan government delegation, said the agency.

The following Sunday City Press reported that two Libyan factions were claiming rights to the Gaddafi treasure  in South Africa. Johan Erasmus was named as being connected with one of them. In the story Erasmus said that two Libyan investigators had called on former president Zuma at his Nkandla homestead.

In the resulting furore, Zuma told the National Assembly he knew nothing about billions of dollars cached in South Africa by Gaddafi. “I was never involved in what caused the money to be here,” said  Zuma.

In an attempt to revive Zuma and the ANC’s involvement in the Gaddafi treasure, Erasmus now gives Noseweek a document allegedly written by suspended deputy national director of Public Prosecutions Nomgcobo Jiba. Addressed to the head of legal services at National Treasury, it speaks of 69 flights by Boeing 747 cargo aircraft, all painted white, arriving in southern Africa laden with Gaddafi’s loot, which had “an asset value of roughly $1.38 billion or more”. Various “high ranking ANC and government officials from South Africa were involved,” says Jiba’s alleged letter.

Noseweek believes that, like the Standard Bank memo, the so-called Jiba letter is a forgery. This theory gains credence when Johan Erasmus insisted that his latest Gaddafi revelations must appear in Noseweek before the end of April, ie before the May 8 election.

If Erasmus feels that this article’s exposé of his shenanigans has let him down, the Sunday Times certainly obliged with a sensational page one splash on 7 April. Quoting unnamed “government sources, South African agents” and a “high-ranking intelligence source”, Zuma was again the bad boy for tucking away, this time $30m of Gaddafi loot in an underground vault at Nkandla before dispatching it “in five tranches” – nice bit of convincing-sounding detail there – to the care of King Mswati III in eSwatini (formerly Swaziland).

Sunday Times political writer Qaanitah Hunter claimed that the Swazi king had confirmed the existence of the $30m (about R417m) to President Cyril Ramaphosa in a meeting at OR Tambo International Airport.

Ramaphosa hadn’t commented on his supposed meeting with King Mswati III before Noseweek went to press, but Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Lindiwe Sisulu denied that the king had confirmed anything to Ramaphosa. There was no Libyan money that she was aware of and Hunter’s piece was “a ghost story”.

Zuma has denied the story and announced his intention to sue Qaanitah Hunter, the 25-year-old much-acclaimed star reporter and author of the book Diary of a Guji Girl.

Sisulu’s denial draws an email from Johan Erasmus: “I see that Lindiwe Sisulu claims that there’s no Gaddafi moneys,” he writes. “This whilst she hid a load therof in her house under the Oregon pine floorboards.”

Erasmus denied planting the Sunday Times story. “Was not me,” he insists. The arms dealer adds: “The issue is that Zuma had more than 300mt of gold at Nkandla which went with a ship to Russia.” – Jack Lundin

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