Zuma still on the hook

It has been established that the National Prosecuting Authority has given notice to Zuma and French arms company Thint that it will apply for certain documents ‘ crucial in the case against Zuma ‘ to be released by the Mauritian High Court, which is holding them sealed by order.

These documents are believed to include the 2000 diary of Alain Thetard, Thint’s former local chief executive, who was effectively found by two local courts to have helped set up a bribe for Zuma.

The NPA will make the application for the documents on December 12 in the chambers of a Durban High Court judge.

The documents would be asked for in terms of section 2 (2) of the International Co-operation on Criminal Matters Act.

Both Judge Hilary Squires of the Durban High Court and a full bench of the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) accepted ‘ in the trial and appeal of Durban businessman Schabir Shaik ‘ that an encrypted fax sent by Thetard to his superiors at Thint in Paris and Mauritius contained details of the request for a bribe of R250 000 a year for Zuma.

When charges of corruption and fraud against Zuma and Thint were struck off the roll in the Pietermaritzburg High Court by Judge Herbert Q. Msimang, the NPA indicated it would push ahead with its “investigations” into the two parties, and would re-charge both parties some time next year, once two search-and-seizure matters had been heard by the SCA and once it had applied for the release of certain Thint documents, including Thetard’s diary.

If Zuma and Thint oppose the application, the matter will probably be adjourned until next year for oral argument.

On Tuesday night, Zuma’s attorney Michael Hulley was not available for comment, but Jerome Brauns, one of Zuma’s advocates, said the Zuma team had already indicated it would oppose the application and Ajay Sooklal, Thint’s attorney, said Thint would definitely oppose the application.

Thetard’s diary allegedly has an entry indicating a meeting between himself, Zuma and “SS” (Schabir Shaik), thus proving, according to the State, that a meeting took place in Durban between the three “co-conspirators” when a bribe to Zuma from Thint was agreed upon.

In March this year, four months before Zuma and Thint’s trial, the NPA attempted to get a similar order for a letter of request for mutual legal assistance in terms of the International Co-operation in Criminal Matters Act.

But Judge Pete Combrinck ruled that he could not grant the order because this could only be done by the trial judge, who had not been appointed at that time.

The inability of the prosecution to get the documents was one of the issues raised in its unsuccessful application before Judge Msimang for a postponement of the Zuma trial. Other issues were the uncertainty around the legality of the search-and-seizure raids conducted on the homes and offices of Zuma, his lawyers, family and business associates and Thint representatives, and the outcome of Shaik’s appeal before the SCA.

When he refused the state’s application for an adjournment and struck the case off the roll, Msimang made it clear that these issues needed to be resolved.

And now it seems the NPA is intent on getting its ducks in a row and eliminating the obstacles which prevented the trial from going ahead in July. Because there are no charges pending, the NPA is using a different section of the Act which provides for the issuing of a letter of request for information for use in an ongoing investigation.

In an affidavit filed with the Durban High Court this week, investigating officer Isak du Plooy said the probe remained current.

“There is a reasonable prospect that charges could in future be re-instituted against one or more of the erstwhile accused and/or others, more particularly since the Supreme Court of Appeal has in the interim comprehensively confirmed the findings of the trial court (in the Shaik appeal).

“However, the national director has not yet decided whether to do so and, if so, on what charges. The indictment may differ in certain respects (from the original), but is likely to contain at least the charges set out (in the original),” said Du Plooy.

In an affidavit, Scorpions head Leonard McCarthy said it was important for the request for the documents to be finalised soon.

“The investigation has been ongoing since 2000 and should the suspects be re-charged, they are almost certain to claim their constitutional rights to a speedy trial have been infringed,” he said. ‘ IOL.

December 2006
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