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Basson more buffoon than Bond, state argues

Published Jul 31, 2001

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Austin Powers, not James Bond. This is the state's view on the activities of chemical warfare expert Wouter Basson.

State advocate Anton Ackermann said Basson had fantasised, romanticised and told stories to the court.

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He told the Pretoria High Court on Tuesday that Basson told "irrelevant stories" in an attempt to mislead the court.

In his first day of cross-examining Basson, Ackermann grilled the accused about how he misled the world during his travels to obtain secrets for South Africa's chemical and biological warfare programme, dubbed Project Coast, and about his shady life in the chemical underworld.

Basson conceded that he had misled the intelligence networks of the US, Europe and Eastern bloc countries. He said he even misled SA's own National Intelligence.

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"I had to protect the project," he said.

Basson said his instructions from his superiors were clear. He was not allowed to do anything to compromise the project.

The accused conceded he succeeded very well in misleading the world. To them he was a rich businessman, a wheeler-dealer - this is how he obtained classified information and built up a chemical and biological capability for the country.

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"I was young and on the go. If I think back now to what I have done, I get heart palpitations... and I think I was mad. The world is full of spies. You learn every day."

Basson said the former SA Defence Force hijacked the facilities and companies set up and financed by the principals, to be used to the SADF's benefit.

The state, however, claimed that Basson had built up a business empire for his own benefit.

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He faces 46 charges including drug trafficking, human rights violations, and fraud and theft amounting to about R38-million.

Basson was also questioned about an incident abroad when his bank manager, Sam Bosch, became psychotic. Basson said he suspected that Bosch was poisoned by a chocolate that had been left in his hotel room.

The court heard how Bosch broke furniture in the hotel and punched Basson. He and Philip Mijburg, a nephew of General Magnus Malan, took Bosch to England as they feared he would be a security risk.

In England, Bosch was taken into custody because he insisted on buying a British woman's house with Polish currency worth about R100, Basson said.

He said it was not clear who the chocolate was meant for. At the time, Basson said, they were fighting with the "English mafia" over money. "People can become extremely dirty where money is concerned."

The trial continues.

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