IVOR ICHIKOWITZ'S company, Paramount Group, states in a letter from CEO Steve Griessel in Abu Dhabi that Vrye Weekblad violated the press code with its story on Monday under the headline “Ukraine: this was never an Africa initiative". Read the article here.
What Paramount does not deny is the central theme of the article: it was Ichikowitz and his good friend and partner, the equally shadowy French businessman from London, Jean-Yves Ollivier, who took the initiative to have six African states travel to Ukraine and Russia to supposedly promote peace between the two countries. According to their own version, they convinced the heads of state and obtained Vladimir Putin's approval.
Ichikowitz, whose parents immigrated to South Africa from Eastern Europe in the 1930s (he was born in Springs in 1966), also does not deny that he is one of the ANC's major funders and moves in high ANC social circles. He was one of Jacob Zuma's benefactors and flew him around on more than one occasion.
Furthermore, it is not disputed that Ollivier was involved with the Russian energy giant Rosatom, with whom Zuma signed a contract for a nuclear power station; had close ties with the propaganda machine of the Zuma/Gupta era, Bell Pottinger; was a partner of the influential Putin oligarch and head of the Russian railway company, Vladimir Yakunin; and was or is a shareholder in the French arms manufacturer Thompson CSF, now Thales, which is linked to the corruption cases of Zuma and Schabir Shaik.
In 2016, the French publication Intelligence Online called Ichikowitz the “favourite courtier of African presidents Jacob Zuma, Ali Bongo [Gabon], and Denis Sassou Nguesso [Congo-Brazzaville]".
In its letter to Vrye Weekblad, Paramount says: “We are extremely concerned about the blatant misinformation and speculation masquerading as fact in your reporting."
The company states that Ichikowitz is not a Russian arms manufacturer, does not have any companies or employees in Russia, and has never “delivered any military equipment" to Russia.
Let's examine this closely.
What is true is that the Paramount Group is a partner in an arms factory in Kazakhstan. This was announced in January 2015 by the former South African ambassador to the country, Shirish Manaklal Soni, in the embassy newsletter: “Paramount Group, Africa's largest privately owned defence and aerospace business, announced a strategic collaboration with Kazakhstan Engineering Distribution to establish a manufacturing plant in Kazakhstan for the production of military armoured vehicles and civilian buses." The company is known as Kazakhstan Paramount Engineering (KPE).
Soni went on: “KPE hopes to export vehicles to 12 countries in the Commonwealth of Independent States, Middle East, China and Russia."
One of Paramount's biggest successes was the Marauder combat vehicle, which was famously tested by the BBC's Top Gear. The KPE version is called the Arlan. In 2016, the Arlan was showcased at an arms show in Alabino outside Moscow: 2016 ARMY International Military-Technical Forum. Day Two | Sputnik Mediabank
It is on record that at least one of these Arlans was sold or donated as a demonstration model to the Russian military, which in turn provided it to the military in Chechnya. According to this photo, the vehicle was used by the Russian side in Ukraine:
On May 26, 2018, it was announced that KPE had signed a “tripartite memorandum of cooperation with the Central Research Institute ‘Burevestnik' (Russia) and JSC ‘ZKMK' (Kazakhstan).” The parties “agreed to jointly develop and manufacture a 30mm remote-controlled combat module. It is planned that these combat modules will be installed on armoured wheeled vehicles produced by Kazakhstan Paramount Engineering. Developments will begin this year." LLP “Kazakhstan Paramount Engineering” signed a tripartite memorandum of cooperation – Kaspex.
Burevestnik is under American sanctions because it develops weapon systems for Russia. JSC Central Research Institute 'Burevestnik' - OpenSanctions.
One of the products developed by Burevestnik is the 2S535 Koalitsiya self-propelled howitzer. Russia’s Latest Self-Propelled Artillery Gun: Meet the 2S35 Koalitsiya-SV - 19FortyFive.
Another product is an armoured personnel carrier based on Paramount’s Mbombe8. The project of the Barys armored personnel carrier (Kazakhstan / South Africa / Russia) (topwar.ru).
The Kazakh news agency informburo.KZ reported in 2020: “Kazakhstan Paramount Engineering (KPE) Kazakh-South African joint venture has been developing a common range of remotely operated weapon stations (ROWSs) for ground and sea applications.”
A report in armyrecognitions.com in 2020 also mentioned the Marauder and Arlan. “Russia has also offered its option of a module for the Barys AFV. At the KADEX 2016 defense show held in Astana (now Nur-Sultan), Kazakhstan, KPE showcased a modification of the Barys 8x8 vehicle armed with the AU-220M ROWS, which had been developed by Russia’s design institute Burevestnik (a subsidiary of Rostec’s concern Uralvagonzavod).” Kazakhstan Paramount Engineering tests new combat stations for wheeled AFVs | February 2020 Global Defense Security army news industry | Defense Security global news industry army 2020 | Archive News year (armyrecognition.com)
The Paramount Group also has a branch in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Paramount Aerospace Systems, which, according to a press release in February, sells and upgrades Russian Mi attack helicopters in collaboration with the AAL group. Paramount, AAL Team to Support Russian Helicopters in Africa (defense-aerospace.com).
According to defenceweb.co.za in November last year, one of Paramount's armoured vehicles, the Mbombe 4, will be manufactured in Saudi Arabia in collaboration with Saudi companies Scopa and NCMS: New agreement brings Mbombe 4 production in Saudi Arabia a step closer - defenceWeb.
But that's not where Ichikowitz's ties with Russia end. Through his company Trans Africa Capital he is also a co-owner of a large gold mine in Siberia which, according to critics of Putin, helps fund the Russian war in Ukraine: Brics Investors Tie Up For Siberian Gold Mine Project (engineeringnews.co.za).
Ichikowitz is quoted in the press release: “We are proud to have the support of our respective governments and have all committed ourselves to the success of this huge project. As the South African partner, I salute my fellow participants and wish to congratulate our governments for making this achievement possible."
According to my information, Ichikowitz was recommended as a shareholder by Zuma, who appears in photos taken at the signing of the agreement.
Paramount states in its letter to Vrye Weekblad that “allegations" are made that some of the company's weaponry was loaded onto the Russian cargo ship Lady R in Simon's Town in December. This is not correct. Vrye Weekblad simply stated that this possibility was “speculated" upon. We have no information that this was the case.
Here is the Paramount Group's full response to our original article:
Ivor Ichikowitz is not a Russian arms manufacturer and does not have any factories in Russia. In fact he is a second-generation South African, and a proud and patriotic African.
You allege that “Ichikowitz’s Paramount Group in Russia specialises in imports and exports from Russia”. Paramount does not have any companies, or factories, or any operations, or any employees in Russia.
There has never been a contract for the supply of military equipment between Paramount and Russia. Paramount has never supplied any military equipment to Russia, ever.
You allege that Paramount loaded arms onto Lady R. This is both false, vexatious and a very dangerous statement to make in the current climate. It is devoid of any truth and tantamount to defamation.
Paramount does not manufacture small arms and ammunition. The company manufactures aircraft, armoured vehicles, naval vessels and unmanned aerial vehicles. None of these can fit into a crate for uploading onto a ship. We would suggest you approach the National Conventional Arms Control Committee (NCACC) to verify this.
The company strictly adheres to the arms regulations of the NCACC which preclude the company from exporting a single piece of equipment without a permit from the South African government. All military items that are exported from South Africa are contained in parliamentary reports available to the public.
There has never been a contract for the supply of military equipment between Paramount and Saudi Arabia.
It is public knowledge that the Mr Ichikowitz, in his capacity as chairman of the Ichikowitz Family Foundation, has been a vocal supporter of Ukraine since the outset of the conflict. His foundation donated two fully equipped ambulances to Ukraine at the outbreak of the war. Paramount employees also raised funds to contribute to the ambulance initiative. The foundation proudly sponsored the Ukraine Run for Peace hosted by the Ukrainian community in South Africa. All this information is in the public domain and can be found on the website and social media accounts of the Ichikowitz Foundation. To allege that Paramount’s founder is a Kremlin supporter is both inaccurate and deliberately malicious.
Mr Ichikowitz has publicly condemned Russia for the invasion of Ukraine and has criticised the South African government for their handling of the Russia-Ukraine conflict. See his opinion article in Business Day last month, where he said: “We are truly the only non-aligned continent in the world, which is why the current six-nation African peace initiative to Kyiv and Moscow is so important. On a personal note, I hope for my own country to find its moral compass and condemn Russia for its barbarity and then help forge peace — because that is what true leaders do, not slavishly stand by when crimes against humanity are being committed in the full view of the world.”
Think for yourself.
PS: The South African media, excluding the Mail & Guardian, have been strangely reluctant to explore the role Ichikowitz and Ollivier played with the Ukraine initiative. The issue did receive attention elsewhere, including the Belgian newspaper De Morgen:
♦ VWB ♦
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