Seriti should have interrogated Chippy Shaik on arms deal bribe allegations, court hears
Johannesburg - Judge Willie Seriti failed to investigate claims that Chippy Shaik, the former head of acquisitions in the Arms Deal, solicited bribes from international companies who wanted a stake in the R60 billion Arms Deal, despite mounting evidence against him.
This was the damning evidence presented before a full bench of the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria by legal representatives of two civil society organisations, Corruption Watch and Right2Know Campaign. The two organisations are asking the full bench to review and set aside Seriti findings in the arms procurement commission from April 2016.
Seriti exonerated all politicians and government officials from any acts of wrongdoing and found no corruption in the allocation of business deals during the deals, which began in 1998 while Thabo Mbeki was at the helm in South Africa.
Advocate Geoff Budlender SC, acting for civil society organisations, pointed out several irregularities including payments to former president Jacob Zuma’s lawyer, Julekha Mahomed. Budlender also pointed that Advocate Fana Hlongwane, who was the advisor to former Public Enterprises Minister Stella Sigcau, according to information before the court, had received various payments, possibly amounting to billions. But the Seriti commission failed to probe this, despite being in possession of the information, he argued.
Budlender said (Chippy) Shaik and Hlongwane appeared before the commission but were not grilled on the pertinent allegations them.
“In the case of Mr Shaik, he was just asked what is your response to the allegations against him. His reply was a blatant denial and the Judge said “thank you” and no further questions were asked to him,” Budlender said.
He said the allegations against Shaik were made by businessman Terry Crawford- Browne, Paul Holden and former ANC MP Andrew Feinstein. Crawford-Browne told the Commission that Bell Helicopters withdrew from the bidding bid because it was not prepared to pay a bribe.
“Mr Feinstein and Mr Holden alleged that Mr Chippy Shaik told Bell’s team that they needed to enter into a business relationship with a company named Futuristic Business Solutions (FBS) to have a chance of security the Light Utility Helicopter contract.
“FBS was owned by the then Defence Minister Joe Modise and Mr Ian Pearce,” Budlender said.
Budlender told the full bench that both Feinstein and Holden revealed their source that it was the former US Ambassador to Malawi, George Trail, whom they both interviewed at different times.
The commission was also in possession of the draft Auditor-General report on October 18, 2001 which also made damning provisional findings on the matter, the court heard.
Fenstein and Holden also revealed to the Directorate of Special Operations (DSO), popularly known as the Scorpions, that the company which ultimately won the contract, Agusta, had entered into a business relationship with FBS.
“The commission failed to test this allegation with a key person, Chippy Shaik, the Chief Acquisitions in the Arms Deal. His bare denials were not tested by cross-examination. He was not asked to respond to allegations made by Mr Feisntein, Mr Holden, Mr Trail and Adv Ferreira,” Budlender said.
President Cyril Ramaphosa and other government departments did not oppose the application.
Judgment was reserved.