Resignations point to arms deal ‘cover-up’

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Willie Seriti aug 8 INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS Seriti Commission of Inquiry chairman Judge Willie Seriti. File photo: Oupa Mokoena

Johannesburg - A resignation letter by two evidence leaders of the Seriti Commission of Inquiry allegedly points to a cover-up of corruption in the multi-billion rand arms deal, the Mail&Guardian reported on Friday.

The joint letter by advocates Barry Skinner and Carol Sibiya, who quit two weeks ago, said commission chairman Judge Willie Seriti denied them the right to re-examine witnesses, even though it was a crucial part of their job.

They claimed that vital evidence was withheld from them and that they were aware of duplicity at the commission.

They also criticised Seriti's decision not to permit as evidence a damning report that showed that German arms dealer Ferrostaal allegedly paid R300 million to influence senior politicians to secure the sale of submarines to South Africa.

The report raised concerns about Ferrostaal's relationship with Chippy Shaik, the government's head of acquisitions during the arms deal negotiations.

The report was not released by Ferrostaal but had been reported on by local and international media.

Arms deal critic Paul Holden attempted to introduce the document in the commission but Seriti would not allow it because it was “leaked”.

Sibiyia and Skinner said that for Seriti to deny the admission of the report into evidence “nullifies the very purpose for which the commission was set up”.

The commission was appointed by President Jacob Zuma three years ago to investigate alleged corruption in the arms procurement deal in 1999.

The commission denied that evidence was withheld from Sibiya and Skinner. It said evidence leaders had been routinely allowed to re-examine witnesses and that a record of proceedings would confirm this.

It said the letter of resignation was confidential communication and it would not discuss it with the media. - Sapa

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