Report says officials placed SA at risk of breaking sanctions

The Sunday Times reported that an audit report criticised government officials for placing South Africa at risk of breaking UN sanctions when they issued letters of support to a company trying to sell helicopters to Iran

The paper reported that Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe's romantic partner Gugu Mtshali and her close associates stand accused of peddling political support for the Iran deal — in return for a promised R104-million.

The Grant Thornton report, commissioned by the department, is the first independent proof that officials delivered on their side of a deal to solicit political support for the company, 360 Aviation.

It found that department officials were guilty of "gross negligence" by providing a government support letter to 360 Aviation for a R2-billion helicopter deal with Iran.

"The officials failed to protect the interest of South Africa at large … thereby placing South Africa at risk of engaging in sanctions-busting deals with Iran," the report said.

The Sunday Times first exposed that 360 Aviation MD Barry Oberholzer was promised "government support" in return for a payment of R104-million at a secret meeting at a Johannesburg restaurant in February 2011 attended by Mtshali, her business associate Joe Mboweni, and former De Beers executive Raisaka Masebelanga.

Two months later, said the paper, 360 Aviation obtained the support letter from DTI through the lobbying efforts of former Land Bank executive Herman Moeketsi, a cousin and business partner of Masebelanga. Moeketsi and Masebelanga denied to the Sunday Times they had acted improperly. Mtshali said she never attended a "formal meeting" with 360 Aviation, but would not comment on the recording the Sunday Times said it had of the secret meeting. She said she was "firmly of the view" that she had done nothing wrong. Mboweni could not be reached for comment, said the paper.

DA MP David Maynier said the letters of support made the department vulnerable to corruption. The department should be obliged to notify the national conventional arms control committee of the export of any suspected "dual use goods" to countries under sanctions, he said.

The report recommended disciplinary action against the officials involved.

The DTI said in March that it was investigating the provision of the letters.

In a statement on Sunday, Maynier said the DA would write a letter to Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies to extend the investigation into the letters of support The DA would also ask the department to develop a policy on how it monitors deals with countries under sanctions, especially arms embargoes by the United Nations.

DTI spokesperson Sidwell Medupe confirmed that the report had been submitted to the public protector, the paper reported.

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