Cape Town - The department of trade and industry (DTI) is
conducting an investigation into the supply of letters of support to a company
doing business with Iran.
In a written reply to a question in the National Assembly,
Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies said the DTI issued a letter of support
on April 12 2011 to 360 Aviation.
Services offered by the company included the delivery of
Bell 212 HP helicopters, setting up companies importing and exporting aircraft,
supplying helicopter spare parts to Persian Aviation Gulf Services, supplying
consultant services to Iran Air, and providing the National Iranian Oil Company with support services for spare parts and aviation services.
The request for support was for a forthcoming visit to Iran
scheduled for May 2011, Davies said.
No letters of support for doing business in Iran were issued
in 2009 and 2010. In 2008 the department issued two letters of support to 360
Aviation on February 5.
One was addressed to Iran Air, preceding its visit to South
Africa in 2008, to support a venture between Iran Air and 360 Aviation, and the
second in support of aviation project management services.
Davies said a review of 360 Aviation’s “previous contacts
with the DTI and interactions they had with entities in Iran was done and the
two letters issued in 2008 were retrieved".
“The company was also requested, and duly complied when
requested, to produce a signed letter regarding their past interactions with
Iran and their future objectives in Iran.”
The department was conducting an investigation into the
supply of letters of support, he said.
Democratic Alliance spokesperson David Maynier welcomed the
probe into the letters of support “in potential violation of a United Nations
arms embargo on Iran“.
One of the letters - dated April 12 2011 - signed by then
acting deputy director general Riaan Le Roux was a major concern.
“The letter was allegedly used to solicit a bribe of R10m by
a group of business people which included Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe’s
partner Gugu Mtshali, and the letter could have risked drawing the (DTI) into
what would have amounted to state-sponsored sanctions-busting in Iran,” Maynier
“And how is it that the DTI so easily supplied a letter of
support to a company specialising in aviation project management and services
to do business in Iran after the imposition of a comprehensive arms embargo on
Iran by the United Nations?
“One would have expected alarms bells to have gone off
somewhere in the DTI,” he said.