No dice, Abrahams tells French arms firm in Zuma trial
Prosecutions boss refuses to drop graft case - and then slaps on another charge
The French arms company accused of bribing former president Jacob Zuma has failed to persuade the state to drop the corruption case against it.
Prosecutions boss Shaun Abrahams, after consulting with the state’s Zuma team, wrote to the lawyers representing arms company Thint on Wednesday, saying their arguments for the withdrawal of the case had been “unsuccessful”.
“After careful consideration of the matter, I am of the view that there are reasonable prospects of a successful prosecution against your client,” Abrahams wrote.
The prosecutions boss has also told Thint’s lawyers the state is now considering charging the company with bribery of a public official.
Now, Thint (formerly known as Thales and Thompson CSF) is expected to go to court to seek a permanent stay of the prosecution against it – and that process will almost certainly the delay the Zuma trial.State advocate Billy Downer previously indicated that the state would be ready to proceed with the Zuma trial in November.
Thint had filed representations with the National Prosecuting Authority last month, in which it made several arguments for why the corruption and racketeering case against it was not strong, and should be dropped.
In 1997, Thint’s previous incarnation, Thompson-CSF, scored a R2.6-billion contract to provide four navy frigates to SA’s government, as part of the wider R60-billion arms deal.
As corruption rumours grew, and politicians including Patricia de Lille pushed for answers, Thales/Thint allegedly agreed in 2002 to pay R500,000 to Zuma, the then deputy president, for his “political protection” in any investigation – a deal apparently brokered by Zuma’s financial adviser, Schabir Shaik.
In his criminal trial it emerged that Shaik had paid R888,527 to Zuma over the years in various ways – repairing his cars, paying school fees for his children, paying his bond, buying clothes for him and even giving him R15,000 in Christmas spending money in 1997.
As a quid pro quo, prosecutors said, Zuma tried to help Shaik’s prospective business partners, including Thales, which had picked Shaik’s company, Nkobi, as its black empowerment partner.Thirteen years after Shaik was convicted of corruption, and after a number of court cases, Zuma and Thint are now facing trial. They will appear in the Pietermaritzburg High Court on Friday.
The NPA has confirmed that Zuma’s new team of lawyers, which he appointed after firing his longtime attorney Michael Hulley and advocate Kemp J Kemp, have not yet filed his promised challenge to Abrahams's decision that the former president must face trial.
But, if Thint pursues a permanent stay of prosecution application, it will inevitably give Zuma time to consider his next move, particularly if there are multiple appeals involved in that case.
Zuma is in the midst of a court battle over whether the government will continue funding the costs of his trial defence. He missed a court deadline to file an affidavit detailing why he is entitled to such funding, by a month.