16 Sep 2011

Arms deal inquiry to reopen

10:43 am on 16 September 2011

South Africa is to reopen an inquiry into a 1999 arms deal that has been surrounded with corruption allegations.

President Jacob Zuma's office announced a commission of inquiry would be set up, but gave no further details.

Mr Zuma's former financial adviser Schabir Shaik was jailed for soliciting bribes from a firm linked to the deal.

Mr Zuma himself was investigated for corruption over the deal, but the case was dropped in 2009.

His supporters had always maintained that he had been the victim of a political smear campaign.

The BBC reports the deal was intended to modernise its national defences. Companies from Germany, Italy, Sweden, Britain, France and South Africa were involved.

Shaik was jailed for 15 years in 2005 for soliciting a bribe from Thint, a subsidiary of French arms company Thales.

Another official, Tony Yengeni, who was the chairman of parliament's defence committee at the time of the deal, was convicted of fraud in 2003.

The BBC reports allegations about BAE, a British company, have been widely reported in South Africa.

BAE has consistently denied the claims and said it would co-operate fully with the new inquiry.