EXCLUSIVE: Mac on the make? Maharaj in graft probe

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EXCLUSIVE: Mac on the make? Maharaj in graft probe

Hawks go after Zuma's former spokesperson and his wife over R650m driver’s licence contract

Journalist


The Hawks have officially launched a criminal investigation into a dodgy R650m driver’s licence contract that dates back 20 years.
The probe involves allegations that Jacob Zuma’s former spokesman Mac Maharaj took a 1.2 million French francs (R2.3m) bribe.
Maharaj was the minister of Transport when the tender was awarded to Prodiba, in which Zuma’s then financial adviser, Schabir Shaik, had a 33% stake through his company Nkobi Group. French arms company Thales also had 33% share in Prodiba.
Prodiba received R40 each time a licence card was made for the first time or renewed. The contract was cancelled in 2013.
Thales was also awarded a R2.6bn naval contract in the controversial R60bn arms deal.
Hawks spokesperson Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi confirmed on Friday they were investigating a case of corruption involving alleged bribery in a R650m driver’s licence contract dating back to 1997.
“The matter was registered in May this year as an inquiry. It has now been registered as a docket and a prosecutor has been allocated to guide the investigation,” Mulaudzi said.
“We are not in a position to divulge names of the possible suspects as it is against policy.”
However, Times Select has learnt that Shaik, Maharaj and his wife Zarina are among those being investigated.
‘Secret agreement’
It is believed the case has been given a boost by a document recently handed over to the Hawks, which outlines a secret agreement drawn up in 1996 detailing how Shaik would be paid 1.2 million French francs by Thales for securing the contract with the Department of Transport.
The Sunday Times revealed in 2012 how Shaik was the conduit used by Thales to channel the 1.2 million francs to Zarina, then to Maharaj. The money was paid in two tranches. It went from Thales’s bank to offshore accounts belonging to Zarina just two months before the licence contract was awarded.
In 2004, the Swiss district attorney’s office obtained court orders for statements of Zarina and Shaik’s Swiss bank accounts, which showed Shaik’s company channelled the Thales money to Zarina’s accounts.
However, it is believed the then Scorpions were unable to obtain the agreement between Thales and Shaik, and that this ultimately torpedoed their corruption investigation into Maharaj in 2007.
Victory to those who persevere
A copy of the agreement is believed to have been given to the Hawks last month by Pretoria lawyer Ajay Sooklal, during consultations regarding their investigation into corruption charges against Zuma.
Sooklal was a consultant for Thales from 2003. He is also a former close confidant of Zuma and knows how Thales allegedly wined and dined the former president.
Sooklal said on Friday he officially submitted the agreement to the Hawks in July.
However, he claimed it was not the first time he had handed it over to the authority.
“In October 2012, I was involved in litigation with Thales in the Johannesburg High Court. A subpoena was served on [then] National Directorate of Public Prosecutions acting head Nomcebo Jiba, with the bribe agreement attached. Jiba replied through the state attorney in Johannesburg that the matter was a private dispute and did not concern the National Prosecuting Authority. She asked for the subpoena be withdrawn, and it was.”
He said that despite receiving a copy of the agreement, the NPA had not tried to pursue the bribery allegation.
Asked about the Hawks finally investigating the issue, Sooklal responded: “Victory belongs to the most persevering.”
Sooklal claimed in an affidavit earlier this year that Zuma “tried to silence” him so he did not share information with the Seriti commission investigating the R60bn arms deal.
He confirmed he has been added as one of witnesses in the Zuma corruption case, if it goes to trial.
Maharaj and his wife refused to comment on Friday about the latest development.
Their lawyer, Rudi Krause, said: “Neither our client, Mr Maharaj, nor us have been informed or are aware of any such criminal case being reported. Accordingly, we have no knowledge thereof.” 
Shaik was released on medical parole in March 2009 after serving two years and four months of his 15-year prison term. He was found guilty of corruption and fraud in 2005, which led to the firing of Zuma as then deputy president of the country.
He did not respond to questions by Times Select, despite undertaking to do so.

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