BAe's £4m eases arms deal

By Jonathon Carr-Brown

By Jonathon Carr-Brown

28 November 1999

A British arms company has given £4m to a South African trade union after enlisting its support for a controversial arms deal.

Before the donation from the Saab-British Aerospace consortium in July, the trade union had been opposed to the deal to supply BAe Hawk and Saab Gripen fighter aircraft to the South African air force.

Politicians in Britain, Sweden and South Africa believe the £3bn deal and other "economic sweeteners" attached to it raise serious ethical questions.

The money will go towards establishing an "Industrial School" for the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) and is being channelled through two Swedish trade unions, Metall and the Union for Clerical and Technical Employees in Industry.

Although the British police have found nothing illegal, Ann Clwyd, Labour MP for Cynon Valley and a prominent member of the Commons Select Committee on Strategic Arms Exports, said last night she would put the issue of these sweetener deals called "offsets" on the committee's agenda.

Pressure is also growing in Sweden, where Saab is based, for the deal to be investigated by a joint Swedish-South African parliamentary commission. Patricia de Lille, an MP for the left-wing Pan Africanist Congress, has accused members of the ANC government in parliament of taking kickbacks, enjoying foreign holidays and setting up companies to benefit from the deal.

None of the allegations of corruption have been substantiated but the Heath Commission, set up by Nelson Mandela to investigate allegations of state corruption, is considering making preliminary inquiries into the deal, according to the commission's spokesman.

The deal between the union and Saab-British Aerospace was signed in July - nine months after the South African government announced Saab-British Aerospace was the preferred bidder with its offer of 28 JAS39 Gripen fighter aircraft and 24 BAe Hawk 100 trainer aircraft.

BAe, which has a 35 per cent stake in Saab, was later told the order was to be cut to nine Gripens and 12 Hawks, after pressure to put more money into poverty relief and education.

As part of the deal BAe agreed an "offset" package of investments to re-equip South African defence industry factories so they could supply parts for the Hawks and Gripens.

The original deal in 1998 included orders from defence companies in the UK, Sweden, Italy and Germany, all of which agreed similar investment deals.

Peter Hain, the Foreign Office minister with responsibility for Africa, yesterday told The Independent on Sunday that the Government would investigate the deal if any substantiated allegations were made.

He has praised the deal as a model of ethical trading and claimed that "nobody could object to Britain selling arms to South Africa". However, it appears that many South Africans object to the deal and are beginning to question exactly who will benefit most from the lucrative "offset" deals.

Mr Hain said: "The offset principle is the right one. A country like South Africa will receive near equivalent investment in its economy. But obviously the world is not perfect and if there are any vagaries about any aspect of this deal the Government will investigate."

Both BAe and Saab said everything was done "by the book". A BAe spokesman said the trade union deal was so open a press release announced it and described suggestions of kickbacks as "rubbish".

A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police confirmed that detectives had made preliminary inquiries into an allegation of corruption. She added: "The case is not closed and would be reactivated if further evidence was brought to our attention."

Rachel Harford of the Campaign Against the Arms Trade said: "The deal is a prime example of how arms companies use sweeteners to sell weapons. Even if it is legal it doesn't make it ethically right."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Voices
A meteor streaks across the sky during the Perseid Meteor Shower at a wind farm near Bogdanci, south of Skopje, Macedonia, in the early hours of 13 August
voicesChuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise, says Robert Fisk
News
peopleEnglishman managed quintessential Hollywood restaurant Chasen's
Life and Style
food + drinkHarrods launches gourmet food qualification for staff
Arts and Entertainment
Michael Flatley prepares to bid farewell to the West End stage
danceMichael Flatley hits West End for last time alongside Team GB World champion Alice Upcott
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
News
Jermain Defoe got loads of custard
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Business Analyst - Banking - London - £550 - £650

£550 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Business Analyst - Traded Credit Risk - Investmen...

Data Centre Engineer - Linux, Redhat, Solaris, SAN, Puppet

£55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A financial software vendor at the forefro...

.NET Developer

£600 per day: Harrington Starr: .NET Developer C#, WPF,BLL, MSMQ, SQL, GIT, SQ...

Data Centre Engineer - Linux / Redhat / Solaris / Puppet / SAN

£65000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A financial software vendor at the forefro...

Day In a Page

All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf