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Hearings needed into import/export of civilian aircraft - Maynier

DA MP says SA aviation brokers allegedly tried sourcing aircraft for associates of Viktor Bout

DA calls for hearings into regulatory loopholes in the export/import of civilian aircraft in South Africa

The Democratic Alliance (DA) will write to Ruth Bengu, Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Transport, requesting that the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) provide a briefing on "regulatory loopholes" related to the import and export of civilian aircraft and civilian aircraft parts in South Africa.

A report by the Conflict Awareness Project alleges that Andrei Kosolapov and Sergey Denisenko, two known associates of Viktor Bout, the so-called "Lord of War", attempted to set up a launch pad for clandestine arms trafficking using a network of front companies set up in Mauritius (see here - PDF).

Numerous aviation brokers, based in South Africa, allegedly tried to source aircraft for Andrei Kosolapov and Sergey Denisenko for possible use in countries such as Iran, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo in violation of arms embargoes put in place by the United Nations.

This is also not the first case that has raised questions about the state of regulation of the import and export of civilian aircraft in South Africa. In 2009, a company called Tigris International, attempted to sell three AirbusA300 aircraft, bought from South China Air, to a civilian airline company called Saha Airlines in Iran.

Conflict Awareness Project's report does not produce evidence that conventional weapons were exported from South Africa to any country in violation of United Nations arms embargoes. However, the report does raise serious questions about the regulations of the import and export of civilian aircraft and civilian aircraft parts in South Africa.

The regulation of the export of civilian aircraft seems to "fall between the cracks" at the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA), the National Conventional Arms Control Committee (NCACC) and the South African Council for the Non-Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction (NPC).

The SACAA has to keep an eye on an enormous number of civilian aircraft in South Africa. In 2010/11, for example, 369 aircraft were registered, 111 aircraft were deregistered, bringing the total number of registered aircraft to 11 289 on the South African Civil Aircraft Register. 

When civilian aircraft are exported, the SACAA is responsible for the de-registration of the aircraft on the South African Civil Aircraft Register. However, the SACAA is not responsible for actually authorizing the export of civilian aircraft in South Africa.

Moreover, the export of civilian aircraft is not specifically regulated by the NCACC or NPC.

This appears to create a regulatory loophole, which could all too easily be exploited by crime syndicates operating in South Africa.

The DA will, therefore, write to Ruth Bengu, Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Transport, requesting that she schedule a hearing for the SACAA to brief the committee on:

  • The current state of the registration and de-registration of civilian aircraft on the South African Civil Aircraft Register;
  • The current state of regulation of the import and export of civilian aircraft and civilian aircraft parts; and
  • Possible solutions to the regulatory loopholes related to the import and export of civilian aircraft and civilian aircraft parts in South Africa.

We cannot allow South Africa to become a safe haven for transnational criminals who exploit regulatory loopholes in South Africa.

Statement issued by David Maynier MP, DA Shadow Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, July 29 2012

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