March 25, 2014 / 1:45 PM / 4 years ago

Director of South African tech firm charged with attempted police bribe

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - An executive director of South Africa’s Pinnacle Holdings has been charged with offering a $460,000 bribe to a senior police official in an attempt to win an equipment deal for the technology company, police said on Tuesday.

Takalani Tshivhase allegedly offered the 5 million rand bribe to a lieutenant general in the South African Police Service (SAPS) to secure a multi-million rand contract for devices used in police investigations, SAPS said.

The 59-year-old, who has denied the charges, was arrested by the police’s elite anti-corruption unit earlier this month and released on bail the same day. His court case has been postponed until April 24 to allow for further investigation, police said.

Pinnacle confirmed the arrest in a statement on Tuesday and said there was “no reason to doubt the veracity” of Tshivhase’s denial, based on the evidence available to it.

Shares of Pinnacle, which manufactures and distributes information technology hardware and software, had tumbled more than 24 percent to 15.10 rand by 1234 GMT, putting the stock on track for its biggest one-day fall in almost 11 years.

Pinnacle said in a regulatory filing after the close of trade on Monday that Tshivhase had sold 4 million rand worth of Pinnacle shares on March 19, 14 days after he was arrested.

The Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE), which regulates the securities market, was not immediately able to comment on whether it was looking into the timing of Tshivhase’s sale.

It was also unable to say whether the 20-day gap between Tshivhase’s arrest and the company’s announcement of his arrest violated JSE rules on timely disclosure.

No one was immediately available at Pinnacle to comment about the share sale, or the timing of the disclosure.

“This arrest should serve as a reminder to companies doing business with government that corruption is not an option in securing business deals,” Anwar Dramat, the head of the anti-corruption Hawks unit, said in a statement.

Pinnacle is not the first company to come under scrutiny over awards of government contracts in Africa’s biggest economy.

U.S. technology firm Net 1 UEPS Technologies has said it is being investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI over whether it made “corrupt payments” to South African government officials to win a contract with the national welfare agency.

($1 = 10.8610 South African rand)

Editing by Edward Stoddard and Pravin Char

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