Mbeki 'blocked investigation into £1.5bn BAE arms deal' Chris McGreal in Johannesburg Monday November 12, 2007 Guardian Unlimited Thabo Mbeki: blocked a bribery investigation into a £1.5bn BAe arms deal, according to a former MP. Photograph: AP President Thabo Mbeki blocked a parliamentary investigation into alleged bribery by BAE Systems and other weapons firms in South Africa's biggest ever arms deal, according to a former MP who was driven out of the ruling African National Congress for spearheading the inquiry. Andrew Feinstein, the former ranking ANC member of parliament's public accounts committee, says the presidency killed off its investigation, pressured the auditor general to change a report criticising the £1.5bn deal to buy planes from BAE as "flawed", and stymied an inquiry by the director of public prosecutions into whether the ruling party accepted bribes to fund its election campaigns. In a new book, After the Party, Feinstein, a Cambridge-trained economist, for the first time reveals the extent to which Mr Mbeki was directly involved in stopping his committee's investigation in 2001. Feinstein has since moved to London and is cooperating with an investigation by Britain's Serious Fraud Office into £75m in payments made to the former defence minister, Joe Modise, senior officials in his office and others in South Africa at the time BAE won a contract to supply planes at nearly twice the price of a rival bidder. Feinstein said investigators working with his committee uncovered evidence that Modise received at least 10m rand (£740,000) in bribes from BAE and a German weapons firm but that there was paperwork to suggest up to 35m rand (£2.6m) in illegal payments to the former defence minister, who has since died. "Other key government players in the deal are alleged to have received millions in bribes," Feinstein writes. "In addition, speculation has refused to go away that the ANC received millions of rands from the successful bidders, money that was probably used in our 1999 election campaign." Feinstein said his committee's investigation initially had support from powerful ANC figures, including the speaker of parliament and the director of public prosecutions. But that fell away as the investigation progressed and the presidency grew increasingly concerned to the point of "apoplexy". The first pressure to curb the probe came from the ANC's chief whip, Tony Yengeni, who became "intimidating". ANC members of the committee were called before party leaders including Essop Pahad, a minister and longstanding friend of Mr Mbeki, who "launched into a ferocious diatribe". "Who the **** do you think you are, questioning the integrity of the government, the ministers and the president?" he said, according to Feinstein. Other ANC members of the committee were called in by Mr Mbeki and "effectively told who they could and could not investigate". Feinstein said one senior party official told him not to embarrass the ANC because some of the bribes funded its election campaign. "The situation was out of control. I was being bullied into accepting the leadership's line, and if I didn't it would be clear that I was a traitor with an agenda of my own," he wrote. Yengeni sacked Feinstein as head of the ANC delegation on the public accounts committee and told other members that "the ANC, from the president downwards, will now exercise political control". "The ANC went to such extreme lengths to prevent an unfettered investigation into the deal because they needed to conceal corruption involving the head of procurement in the defence force at the time of the deal, at least two senior ANC leaders and probably the party itself," he writes. Yengeni was later convicted of accepting bribes from a German arms manufacturer, after the press exposed the dealings, and sentenced to four years in prison. He was released after just four months. The final public accounts committee report proved to be a whitewash which said there was no evidence of irregularities.