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Casino Head Admits Bribery In Latest Corruption Scandal

January 18, 1989

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (AP) _ A prominent businessman has admitted paying a $1 million bribe to a black homeland leader, the latest in a series of corruption scandals involving leading politicians and executives.

In a letter presented Tuesday to a judicial inquiry commission in Pretoria, hotel and casino magnate Sol Kerzner acknowledged the 1986 payment to George Matanzima, who at the time was leader of Transkei. The homeland’s army overthrew Matanzima in December 1987, accusing him of corruption.

Kerzner is deputy chairman of Sun International, which has built luxury hotels and casinos throughout the region, including the internationally known Sun City resort in Bophuthatswana.

Kerzner said the payment was made to preserve Sun International’s monopoly on gambling licenses in Transkei. He accused Matanzima of placing ″undue pressure″ on Sun International by threatening to grant another company the right to open a casino in the impoverished homeland.

Kerzner said he acted jointly with David Bloomberg, a business associate who was once the mayor of Cape Town. The men issued a joint statement to the inquiry commission acknowledging the bribe.

Attorney Fanie Cilliers, who is representing Kerzner and Bloomberg, said there is no law in South Africa against bribing an official from a foreign government. Transkei and Bophuthatswana are designated independent by South Africa, although they are not recognized abroad.

Prosecutors and investigative commissions have uncovered several other scandals in recent weeks.

Among them:

-An investigative committee this week asked the state to prosecute Parliament member Peet de Pontes for alleged fraud and perjury in connection with smuggling an Italian drug financier into the country.

Vito Palazzolo, the bankroller for the $1.6 billion ″Pizza Connection″ international drug network, arrived in South Africa in December 1986 on a false passport after fleeing Switzerland while on a prison furlough.

De Pontes, who was a rising star in President P.W. Botha’s National Party, claims he had no knowledge of Palazzolo’s criminal record when he offered him assistance to settle in South Africa. He has refused to quit Parliament.

Botha has sued an Afrikaans-language newspaper, Free Weekly, for libel over a story that said he and Foreign Minister Pik Botha had dinner with Palazzolo. The newspaper said its story was based on a sworn statement given to police.

-Businessman Albert Vermaas, a friend of Pik Botha and other senior government officials, is under investigation for possible irregularities involving multimillion-dollar foreign exchange deals.

There are strict limits on the amount of money that can be taken out of South Africa, and Vermaas allegedly was allowed to make huge transactions without having to receive approval from the Reserve Bank.

-Leon de Beer, elected to Parliament in 1987 in a closely contested race, was convicted last year of vote fraud. De Beer has resigned from the National Party but has maintained his seat in Parliament while he appeals.

-P.W. Botha in December fired Amichand Rajbansi, the only Cabinet member of Indian descent, following investigations by two parliamentary committees and an inquiry commission. Rajbansi was accused of abusing his post in granting various contracts and licenses.

Business Day, the country’s leading financial daily, said in an editorial today that Botha ″has presided over the sleaziest administration South Africa has known″ this century.

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