The corporations and regulators who enable profiteering from grave crimes such as genocide, apartheid, and human rights abuses

War Profiteers

Apartheid Banks

The case against KBC and KBL

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Apartheid, Guns and Money showed how Kredietbank (Belgium) (KBC Group) and Kredietbank Luxembourg (KBL now Quintet bank) laundered money to enable the South African apartheid state to buy weapons in violation of UN arms sanctions. These weapons were essential for the apartheid state’s violent domestic repression, and for the wars and attempts to destabilise other governments and liberation movements in southern Africa. Since 2018, Open Secrets has been working to hold these banks accountable using both international and domestic accountability mechanisms. This includes a complaint to the OECD’s National Contact Points in Belgium and Luxembourg, and the handing over of a criminal “docket” to South Africa’s National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).
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Apartheid, Guns and Money

A tale of profit

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South Africa remains a deeply unequal society battling the legacy of apartheid and the persistence of corrupt networks that seek to ‘capture’ its democratically elected leaders. In Apartheid Guns and Money, Hennie van Vuuren argues that in the absence of accountability, corrupt networks of the past stay in business. Rather than face justice, they invite members of the new elite to the table. In over 600 pages, this meticulously researched book finally lifts the lid on some of the darkest secrets of apartheid’s economic crimes, weaving together a treasure trove of newly declassified documents and eyewitness accounts.

Lady R Arms Shipment

Our quest to reveal the secrets of the sanctioned Russian vessel.


A sanctioned Russian ship docking in South Africa’s most important naval base rightly set off alarm bells. What was onboarded and was it destined for the war zone in Ukraine or any hot conflict in Africa? We need evidence to substantiate facts — on all sides. Open Secrets has submitted correspondence to the South African presidency that the independent inquiry into the Lady R arms shipment be made public. We have also submitted Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to United States agencies who we believe should have information concerning the Lady R arms shipment to and from South Africa in December 2022.

Russian Doll

Assassinations, torture squads and political intrigue

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Colonel Frans Mathipa was shot in the head and killed by unknown assassins on Sunday, 6 August. Who are the skilled shooters who murdered a seasoned investigator in the Hawks’ Crimes Against the State Unit? Is there a link to a SANDF Special Forces unit that is alleged to have abducted civilians suspected of being Isis terrorists? What was this unit of Special Forces operatives doing on the quay in Simon’s Town when containers were loaded off and on the Russian vessel the Lady R in December 2022?

Russian Doll is an Open Secrets series published on the Daily Maverick.

They Killed Dulcie

Podcast series by Open Secrets and Sound Africa

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On 29 March 1988 five bullets ended the life of South African freedom fighter Dulcie September. She was imprisoned, driven into exile and by the 1980’s she spearheaded the anti-apartheid efforts in France, Switzerland and Luxembourg from a small office in Paris.

Why was she killed? Who is the shadowy network that profited from her murder? Why do her killers roam free?

Rwandan Genocide

How middlemen and corporations armed the Rwandan Genocide

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In the investigative report, The Secretary, we delve into the Malo Arms Deal facilitated by South African arms dealer and former secretary to PW Botha, Willem ‘Ters’ Ehlers. While PW Botha’s ousting left Ters Ehlers without a job; the early 1990s and the advent of democracy in 1994 would be an opportu­nity for him and other securocrats to mone­tise their proximity to the inner workings of the apartheid military establishment. The Secretary focusses on one single arms transaction related to the Rwandan genocide, the report underscores the glob­al nature of civil wars and genocide. It shows how localised genocides have far and com­plex origins, involving not just victims and perpetrators but also enablers and profiteers.

On the 20th of June 2024, Open Secrets submitted a memorandum to the NPA for the prosecution of Ters Ehlers for the offence of aiding and abetting the Rwandan Genocide.

The People's Tribunal on Economic Crime

2018- The Arms Industry


The first People’s Tribunal on Economic Crime in South Africa was held from 3-7 February 2018 at the former Women’s Jail at Constitution Hill, Johannesburg. As secretariat of the People’s Tribunal, Open Secrets convened an organising committee comprising of a range of civil society organisations, including the Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS), Corruption Watch, the Foundation for Human Rights (FHR), Open Secrets, Public Affairs Research Institute (PARI) and the Right2Know Campaign (R2K).

War in Yemen

South Africa’s complicity in war crimes in Yemen

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Since the outbreak of the conflict in Yemen, South Africa has exported arms to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, two of the countries supplying arms that is fuelling the war in Yemen. The UN Expert Group on Yemen and reports by civil society organisations have accused Saudi Arabia and the UAE of violating international humanitarian law and the human rights of the Yemenis. Despite this, South Africa’s National Conventional Arms Control Committee (NCACC) has been approving arms export licences to both Saudi Arabia and the UAE. It is in this backdrop that Open Secrets and the Southern African Litigation Centre (SALC) launched an application to review the NCACC’s decision to approve export licences.

1999 Arms Deal

Seriti Commission and JSC Complaint


Open Secrets and Shadow World Investigations have laid a complaint with the Chief Justice as the Chair of the Judicial Conduct Committee (JSC). The complaint asks the Chief Justice to refer Judge Willie Seriti and Judge Hendrick Musi to the JSC’s disciplinary processes because of their failure to investigate the Arms Deal during the life of the Seriti Commission. The complaint also asks the JSC to consider whether certain actions by Judges Seriti and Musi may constitute criminal misconduct and, if so, to refer these matters to the NPA for further action.

Declassified: Apartheid Profits

Series in published in the Daily Maverick and News24

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While researching Apartheid Guns and Money: A Tale of Profit, Open Secrets collected approximately 40,000 archival documents from 25 archives in seven countries. These records contained damning details of the individuals and corporations that propped up apartheid and profited in return. Many of these documents were kept secret until now, and most remain hidden despite South Africa’s transition to democracy. In line with our belief that this information should be scrutinised by the public, we published the Declassified series of articles on the Daily Maverick and News24 to make public the documents that informed the book.

The South African Coalition for Transitional Justice

Coalition of organisations and individuals working together for transitional and transformative justice in South Africa


The SACTJ was established by civil society organisations in 2011 to hold the South African government accountable to its obligations and commitments to justice, redress and reparation.

Open Secrets is a member of the SACTJ and is currently leading the Economic Crimes sub committee.