Paul Holden

Interview with
Ambassador GEORGE TRAIL
Parkview, Johannesburg
I don’t mind being on the record.
I was working with Bell at the time, around ’95, they had been talking to me for a while and
when the tender came out, they asked me to go on a consulting basis with them. I had to go
their offices, and be briefed by their lawyers about the Foreign Corrupt ractices !ct, for
which C"#s of companies can go to $ail, and they made it %ery clear that it applied to
consultants as well as employees, and I didn’t want to do anything because I had a reputation
that I didn’t want ruined by playing any shady games.
&he '( was not in%ited to bid on this because there was a problem at the time with )enel or
!rmscor. (omebody had leaked classified information, or something like that, but the
go%ernment then decided that it would ask go%ernments to bid or submit tenders, rather than
indi%idual companies. &hey didn’t in%ite the '(, howe%er, Bell *elicopter in a pre%ious
incarnation as an offset programme set up an office in Canada, out of which most of their
foreign sales go. (o the Canadian go%ernment put in a bid. +early all the countries that bid,
pretty much put in a bid for a whole range of e,uipment and pro$ects that they wanted, which
included the *elicopters, and Cor%ettes and (ubmarines, which I felt were the last things that
we needed. &he original list had tanks on it. (o that’s when I started working for Bell
*elicopter, trying to get to meet all the right people so that we could lobby, do all the abo%e
the board stuff.
&hat’s when I first met Chippy (haik. I didnt’ know the other brothers at the time. But he was
the senior point of contact for any of the tender companies, although we also made a point of
meeting people at the )&I and the )eputy -inister, including .ill -arcus who was )eputy
-inister of &rade or Finance. /e $ust touched all the bases, including 0onnie 1asrils. !nd,
you know to make the deal for Bell, about our good prices and our good product. But it
became apparent pretty early on that this process was not being conducted the way it ought to
be. 2ou know, I come from a diplomatic background, any negotiation that in%ol%es arms and
money and arms sales, you always ha%e a note taker or minute taker so that e%erybody agrees
to what was said and agreed to. &here’s nothing like that when you’re dealing with -r.
Chippy (haik. "%erytime we met him, it was by himself, either in his office or in a coffee
shop. I met him out in Fourways at one time, also to discuss the *ercules C345 programme.
*e ne%er came right out and said, 6look, for a certain consideration I can be helpful.’ But,
what he did suggest was that we hire a company to lobby on behalf of Bell *elicopter. I saw
the name of the company the other day7 !%iation Consultancy (er%ices7 -y wife knows
the guy who’s name you mentioned, Bredenkamp7 knows of him and some of his pals, and I
wasn’t really familiar with him at all when we went to play golf at in the /estern &rans%aal,
where there is a beautiful golf course in the middle of nowhere where he and his pals ha%e
built a place7
Chippy basically said, look, don’t worry too much about this offsets stuff. 2ou know, the )&I
guys, 6they’re small boys’, so don’t get too hung up on this. #f course, we did get hung up on
it, and I must say that the guys at Bell, and the parent company &e8tron, their main product is
fasteners which hold planes and cars together, and is a '()33bn company7 (o when you
dri%e a car, or fly a Boeing, they use &e8tron stuff to hold together. (o we got them in%ol%ed,
because Bell only makes helicopters there is limited stuff as to what they can do, but Bell did
suggest restoring blades from !frican and -iddle "ast7 But when the &e8tron guys came,
they saw huge potential for manufacturing. !nd instead of a se%en year programme, it would
ha%e been open9ended. It would ha%e been to upgrade the technology of producers of
fasteners here, which would ha%e upgraded the capacity and capability, which they were
prepared to do. But Chippy (haik referred to it as peanuts, but o%er the years it would ha%e
been billions of dollars, nearly all of it e8port. But he recommended Futuristic Business
(olutions. *e told me where the office was and what the telephone number was, off Bolton
road near 0osebank, and I went to go and %isit it, but it wasn’t there. &his guy offered his
ser%ices to Bell, which would ha%e re,uired '():;55k to set up offices, and '():;5k a
month to act as a consultant to Bell. It was $ust an outright re,uest for money7 &his guy had
no office, &shepo -olai, in 0osebank.
&here were always these kinds of games, these guys would be gi%en the contracts and then
would subcontract to somebody else who could actually do the work. /e met with him, and it
was clear what was going on. /e met with other guys who were on the committee, including
Baloyi who was on the Committee for procurement for .auteng at the time7 (o we tried to
co%er all the bases and tried to lobby them7 2ou know, a lot of companies only buy stuff
that is made domestically, but on international tenders Bell was the leading helicopter
manufacturer in the world7 &hey basically had de%eloped a helicopter to fit the tender
re,uirements. &he (!!F wanted a twin engine, but most pilots would say the risk of one
engine going out it wasn’t worth the risk of a twin engine. It was called a <;= or something. I
think the off9the9shelf price was '()5m at the time. /hen they started adding stuff to it, I
wondered if it would get off the ground. From e%erybody that I spoke to from a technical
le%el was that that the !ir Force choice would ha%e been the Bell aircraft. !nd I met with
other guy who was consulting for the submarines and the cor%ettes for the Italians. !nd there
impression was that Bell was the helicopter they wanted. I didn’t think we would ha%e a
chance because !gusta was doing the kind of things that Chippy (haik liked to see. !nd they
offered to put up an assembly line here for making the helicopters. &he !gusta helicopter is
fast, faster than Bell, but !gusta got its start by building helicopters for the '( in the >ietnam
/ar, which is how they e8panded into being a world player. &he stuff they would ha%e put up
in the assembly line would ha%e been really basic, $ust the shells, not the fire control systems,
communication systems, the weapons systems, which is %ery sophisticated.
I went to go and see a couple of $ournalists, including (tephen -ulholland, who wrote a good
article. I then met the editor of the (unday &imes, who was 0obertson, who said, 6#h, I know
the (haik boys.’
#nce they stymied .a%in /oods and !ndrew in arliament, there was %ery little chance of
this coming out. !nd, of course, Chippy has left the country, probably to !ustralia. But the
whole thing was conducted in a way that you knew it wasn’t right because that’s not the way
you do things is not how you do them when it in%ol%es so much money. *ow he got the $ob is
beyond me. It should ha%e gone to someone like (teyn.
I knew a guy at !rmscor called 0on *aywood7 I knew him when he was o%er at the
?ohannesburg Chamber of Commerce, of the (outh !frican Business Chamber, near
-el%ille7 !nd so I was kind of surprised when he all of a sudden pitched up at !rmscor. But
I went to see him too, assuming that his skirts were clean at the time, $ust to let him know
what I was doing because I had known him for some time. #b%iously he didn’t make any
commitments, but wanted to make sure that Bell ga%e me a letter. /e didn’t ha%e a problem
seeing people or talking to people, but Chippy was clear that he was the guy7 /e got the
president of Bell Canada, a bright young fella, but it was all for nought. -y guess is that
unless you were making it clear that you could write a che,ue or make a deal that was going
to help Chippy and his pals, you weren’t going to get %ery far. ?oe -odise’s son9in9law, we
didn’t know that there was a connection to -odise at the time.