Arms deal inquiry should subpoena Tony Blair

Terry Crawford-Browne sets out the questions that need to be put to the former British PM


The Seriti Commission of Inquiry into the arms deal has today refused my request to disseminate the submission that I made on 13 June 2012. The reason it offers is that the Commission was established to investigate allegations made in my submission, and, anyway as I had advised, that the contents of my submission are already in the public domain. The response declares:

This begs the question: what is the point of disseminating what is already in the public domain? What purpose will be served thereby?

Since these issues are the subject of eight books already published on the arms deal scandal and thus in the public domain, I record the summary of my submission:

Summary: Three of the six provisions of the Commission's terms of reference refer to offsets. The essence of this submission is that offsets fail the requirements of section 217 (1) of the Constitution that government procurements must accord "with a system which is fair, equitable, transparent, competitive and cost-effective."

Advocate Geoff Budlender SC's legal opinion is submitted to support my contention that the arms deal was unconstitutional and illegal right from inception, and is therefore unfixable. Advocate Budlender further advises that the international remedy for fraud is to cancel the contracts, return the equipment and recover the monies.

The Department of Trade and Industry has conceded that the offsets were a fiasco. Amongst documents I submitted to the Constitutional Court are 160 pages of affidavits that detail why and how BAE paid bribes of £115 million (R1.5 billion) to secure its warplane contracts, to whom the bribes were paid, and into which bank accounts they were credited.

The 1996 Defence White Paper and 1998 Defence Review noted that there was no conceivable foreign military threat to South Africa, and that socio-economic upliftment was the national priority.  In terms of the guarantee arrangements for the loan agreements, the financial consequences of cancellation of the contracts would be borne by British and German taxpayers, not South Africans.

To reiterate, my submission confirms that the arms deal was unconstitutional and illegal right from inception, and is therefore unfixable. The crux of the matter is how to take urgent remedial action to recover the monies so that they may be allocated to South Africa's desperately needed social upliftment. Such a decision does not require three years of further investigations but, given the priorities purportedly accorded to the eradication of corruption, simply political will.

In addition and separately, I have last week requested the Commission to subpoena the former British Prime Minister, Mr Tony Blair. The questions I wish to pose to him include:

1. The pressure he applied on our government to buy BAE Hawk and BAE/Saab Gripen fighter aircraft despite rejection in 1997 of those proposals by the SA Air Force because these aircraft are both unsuited to South African requirements and too expensive,

2. The complicity of his government in BAE's payment of bribes of £115 million, and his placement of British officials to block investigations by the Auditor General and parliamentarians into the fraudulent offset contracts,

3. The default clauses of the 20 year Barclays Bank/ECGD loan agreements for the BAE contracts and (to cite legal counsel for Minister Trevor Manuel) "their potentially catastrophic consequences for South Africa,"

4. The role of the so-called "BAE/Al Yamamah slush fund" administered by the Bank of England, and its purpose to destabilise resource-rich countries in Asia and Africa. This question is particularly germane given the events last week at the British-owned Lonmin mine.

The request that Mr Blair be subpoenaed whilst he is in South Africa is still outstanding.

Statement issued by Terry Crawford-Browne, August 20 2012

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