Paradis fiscaux et judiciaires

South Africa’s vice-president ’took bribes’, court told

lundi 21 mai 2007

source Scotsman

Thu 14 Oct 2004

South Africa’s vice-president ’took bribes’, court told

FRED BRIDGLAND IN JOHANNESBURG

THE most important trial in the history of post-apartheid South Africa started yesterday, with the prosecution claiming it would prove that South Africa’s vice-president, Jacob Zuma, had taken bribes from a French arms company to influence government business.

A state prosecutor, Billy Downer, said Mr Zuma accepted money from Thomson-CSF, a weapons manufacturer partly owned by the French government. In return, Mr Zuma allegedly protected the company against parliamentary inquiries into a £5.2 billion arms deal and promoted the French company’s interests in the ruling ANC government cabinet.

The payments were laundered through a network of firms owned by Mr Zuma’s close friend and financial adviser, Schabir Shaik, Mr Downer told the judge, Hillary Squires, in Durban’s High Court.

Shaik is in the dock on several charges of fraud and corruption. Although Mr Zuma is not a co-accused, his name runs in a continuous thread through the 75-page indictment as the recipient of hundreds of payments from Shaik. Drawn up after a three-year investigation by the Scorpions, South Africa’s equivalent of the FBI, the indictment alleges "a general corrupt relationship" between Shaik and Mr Zuma.

Scorpion investigators say a prima facie case of fraud and corruption exists against the vice-president. The trial has shaken the African National Congress establishment and could decide who the next president of South Africa will be. Until now, Mr Zuma, who is in charge of the government’s "moral regeneration" campaign, has been the favourite to succeed Thabo Mbeki.

The decision not to charge Mr Zuma, at least for the time being, has inspired local media to compare Shaik’s trial to a production of Hamlet without the prince.

Mr Downer said payments made to Mr Zuma included at least 1.2 million rand [£103,000] to reduce the vice-president’s heavy debts.

In addition, Shaik secured a 500,000 rand retainer for Mr Zuma from Thomson-CSF, recently renamed Thales, to secure government contracts.

Prosecutors said the state would further prove that the payments were fraudulently written off the books of Shaik’s companies, in which Thomson-CSF held shares.

Shaik has pleaded not guilty to all charges, and in an opening statement read by his lawyer, the advocate François van Zyl, he made no secret of the fact that he had made a string of payments to Mr Zuma and his family members. But they were loans to an old friend, not bribes, he claimed.

Shaik said he had been the underground banker to the ANC when the movement was a banned organisation and Mr Zuma was head of its intelligence wing in exile.

After South Africa’s first all-race election in 1994, Shaik said he acted as Mr Zuma’s financial adviser without remuneration.

Mr Downer contested Shaik’s argument that the payments, made over several years since 1999, were loans.

A first repayment of 250,000 rand had been made only "very, very recently", he said.

Mr Zuma, has challenged the authorities to prosecute him if they think he is guilty.

Last updated : 14-Oct-04 10:17 BST

©2007 Scotsman.com


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