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Thursday, November 02, 2006

Dirty tricks used in arms deal

South African Press Association
Nov 2, 2006 - 5:20:06 AM

Competition between manufacturers to win a $2-billion deal to supply Turkey with attack helicopters has brought out the seamy side of the arms industry, members of Parliament's public enterprises portfolio committee heard on Wednesday.

"I can't even tell you the games that are coming out, and the tricks that are being pulled in this game," Denel chief executive Shaun Liebenberg told MPs during a briefing on the arms parastatal's 2006 annual report.

Turkey short-listed Denel's Rooivalk helicopter, as well as Italian manufacturer Augusta Aerospace's Mangusta gunship, for final consideration in July.

The successful bidder will receive a contract for co-production of 30 helicopters, with options for 20 more.

Various 'sweeteners' offered

"We know that the Americans are trying to get back into the deal by offering various sweeteners," he said.

The final decision was to have been taken on October 17, but Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan took ill on that day and was rushed to hospital.

"We don't know when the next evaluation date is going to be," Liebenberg said on Wednesday.

The latest information was that senior members of Turkey's defence force were currently in the United States, talking to helicopter manufacturers.

Liebenberg said the South African government has been actively involved in the bid process.

"We've had senior members of foreign affairs involved in this process; we've had business leaders involved in the process; we have had the three or four most senior people in the government arena in South Africa actively involved on a weekly basis on our bidding to Turkey.

Built up credibility

"The bottom line is, we've built up huge credibility in a part of the world that we have not done much business in the defence environment, central Asia.

"If we don't win in Turkey, we've opened up many other opportunities, in which we've already started winning business in the Turkish and central Asian environment. It's going to be a very active market for us in future," he said.

The SA Air Force currently operates 12 Rooivalk helicopters.
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