CityPress - - Front Page - SU­SAN COM­RIE in JO­HAN­NES­BURG and KATE BARTLETT in HONG KONG in­ves­ti­ga­tions@city­

The Hil­lier Com­mer­cial Build­ing in She­ung Wan dis­trict in Hong Kong is the last place you’d ex­pect to find a branch of a state-owned arms com­pany.

The out­side of the build­ing ad­ver­tises mu­sic lessons, golf club fit­ting ser­vices, gel nails and a phys­io­ther­a­pist called Big Feet which spe­cialises in “foot and cer­vi­cal” treat­ments.

It’s also home to Denel Asia, the con­tro­ver­sial joint ven­ture created be­tween Denel and VR Laser Asia.

In a writ­ten state­ment, Denel said it se­lected VR Laser Asia as a joint ven­ture part­ner be­cause the com­pany “is fa­mil­iar with the in­dus­trial land­scape in the world’s fastest-grow­ing de­fence mar­ket”.

Pub­lic records show that both Denel Asia and its new part­ner VR Laser Asia are reg­is­tered at Flat A on the 15th floor.

When City Press ar­rived, we found no sign of VR Laser Asia, but in­stead a nail salon and the of­fices of Stephen M.S. Lai & Co, a shelf com­pany reg­is­tra­tion busi­ness.

In­side those of­fices, heaps of files were piled on the floor. The sec­re­tary be­hind the desk con­firmed that VR Laser Asia was a client of theirs.

Asked if VR Laser Asia had of­fices in Hong Kong, the woman be­hind the desk said she wasn’t aware of one. She only knew of their of­fices in South Africa. She said she didn’t have a phone num­ber for them, and couldn’t pro­vide an email ad­dress.

When Denel’s act­ing CFO, Odwa Mhlwana, ap­peared be­fore Par­lia­ment this week, he told MPs that Denel only chose strate­gic part­ners af­ter a thor­ough due dili­gence process.

De­spite this, he con­ceded that for now, VR Laser Asia only ex­ists on pa­per. “The busi­ness was in­cor­po­rated in June 2014. It is a busi­ness that hasn’t got any op­er­a­tions in it,” he said. “But what makes this busi­ness at­trac­tive to us is that it is strongly re­lated to VR Laser SA.”

Denel has been eva­sive about the ex­act re­la­tion­ship be­tween VR Laser Asia and VR Laser, the South African com­pany in which the Gup­tas and Duduzane Zuma hold mi­nor­ity stakes.

Mhlwana stressed that VR Laser Asia is a sep­a­rate com­pany and that any deal­ings with them won’t ben­e­fit the Gup­tas. He stressed, though, that the two com­pa­nies are con­nected through their com­mon share­holder, Salim Essa.

“In terms of our mem­o­ran­dum of in­cor­po­ra­tion, we have made it very clear that the ca­pa­bil­ity that re­sides in VR Laser South Africa will be brought into this part­ner­ship.”

Mhlwana had also said that VR Laser Asia had promised to give R100 mil­lion to the part­ner­ship.

City Press sent de­tailed ques­tions to Denel, VR Laser and VR Laser Asia. Denel re­ferred all ques­tions to the two pri­vate com­pa­nies. Nei­ther VR Laser com­pany of­fered any re­sponse.


FOR­EIGN TIES The reg­is­tered ad­dress of Denel Asia in Hong Kong’s She­ung Wan dis­trict. When City Press vis­ited the of­fice, we found no sign of Denel Asia or their part­ner VR Laser Asia, but in­stead a nail salon and a shelf com­pany reg­is­tra­tion of­fice

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