Arguments in the case against Dr Wouter Basson, alias "Dr Death" (see NA, Nov) resumed on 5 November and continued throughout the month and early December, with the state prosecutor, Dr Tone Pretorius, addressing the drug-related charges among the 46 Basson faces.
In a lengthy preamble, Pretorius warned the Pretoria High Court that Basson was a highly intelligent man and an "expert of deceit" who had been involved in several operations, including "hoodwinking whole nations".
"It had to be borne in mind," Pretorius said, "that Basson is an exceptionally intelligent and highly qualified individual. In addition to his impressive array of academic qualifications, he was responsible for drawing up the psychological profiles used by the South African Defence Force to select Special Forces recruits, and was acquainted with all the Special Forces operators during his time in the military. He is also a qualified explosives expert."
"Basson's military career," Pretorius continued, "included his involvement in highly sensitive and classified operations, numerous intelligence operations and the CBW [Chemical and Biological Warfare] project."
In short, said Pretorius, Basson was "a rare and particularly intelligent witness, an expert in several fields and as such, capable of offering plausible responses to any questions. Not only does he have an answer for everything, he has the ability to embroider on his responses with elaborate anecdotes".
Pretorius drew the court's attention to the fact that the keynote of the South African CBW programme, in which Basson played the leading role, was deceit. Front companies and cover stories were the order of the day, and plausible deniability the watchword.
The spin doctor
Basson's own testimony was riddled with such terms as "generate like crazy", "financial engineer", "manoeuvres" to create illusions, "pseudo-deals", "false documents", "manipulate the situation", "orchestrate events", "facades". Pretorius said the directors of the front companies set up by Basson "didn't have a clue" and fell for the cover stories "hook, line and sinker".
Basson had himself testified that: "The most valuable lesson they taught us in Special Forces was, if it is clear to you that your interrogator does not know what he is talking about, you can spin him any story you like.
"He can inject you, hit you, strangle you, but if the interrogator does not convince you within the first two minutes that he is already in possession of facts...