COPENHAGEN, Denmark -- A Danish shipowner testified today that French President Francois Mitterrand gave tacit acceptance to the shipment of arms to South Africa in 1981 and 1982 despite a U.N. embargo.
Jorgen Jensen, owner of the Tina Maru and on trial on the charge of allowing his vessel to carry illegal shipments of weapons to the white-minority government in Pretoria, said five trips were made.
'It was with the full knowledge and tacit acceptance of the French president that, in all, five shipments of arms and weapons left Bordeaux for Durban,' Jensen told the court.
After repeated demands by the prosecutor to prove his allegations, Jensen said: 'I was told at a meeting with high-ranking government officials in Paris that both the government and the French president accepted the shipments despite their official public stance, as long as there was some camouflage.
'I therefore had no qualms about the shipments.'
One of the captains of the Tina Maru, Kaj Narup, testified he was told by the company's Bordeaux agent that South Africa had threatened to cancel a 'vast' order of French cars if the arms shipments did not continue.
Jensen, 65, his two captains, Kaj Narup, 60, and Charles Wig Hansen, 54, and the company broker, Torben Nielsen, 49, are all facing charges of carrying illegal shipments of arms to South Africa in contravention of the U.N. embargo and Danish law.
Jensen argued that no Danish laws had been broken since his vessel was owned by a Panamanian company, registered under a Panamanian flag and had been on charter at the time of the shipments. The Panamanian company, Flamenco Maritime, was also owned by Jorgen Jensen.
'When the shipments ended I bought the ship back again, but it was in a sorry state since it had not been serviced due to the hectic shipments to South Africa,' Jensen said.
If found guilty, Jensen and the other defendants could be sentenced to up to four years in prison and fined for the amount of money earned for the shipments.
The trial, which began Monday, is expected to end Thursday.