Shaik Hearing Adjourned to April 25
Wendy Jasson da Costa
Durban High Court judge Hillary Squires turned down a late application by the state to reopen its case on Thursday, thereby effectively ending the Schabir Shaik trial which started in October.
He adjourned proceedings until Monday, April 25, for argument *1.
"I'm glad its come to an end," Shaik told journalists outside the court adding that "much of the burden of the stress of this case is over."
He was also pleased that Squires had denied the state's application to enter new evidence, saying:" I think we all accepted that when we entered this case that we'd play by the rules."
Prosecutor Billy Downer, who made the application after the defence declared its case closed, refused to talk about the impact of the judge's decision beyond saying, "obviously we thought we had a very good case."
But he remained upbeat: "As usual, we think we are still on track."
In his application Downer had asked Squires to allow the prosecution to prove the authenticity of a two-page document known as BBB1 and 2.
Downer said this document appeared to be an earlier draft of another document known as QQ11 and 12, also two pages in length, found on a computer in Shaik's Nkobi group of companies.
It is an unsigned letter by Deputy President Jacob Zuma dated 31 October 1996, and was on a letterhead of the ministry of economic affairs and tourism.
The application arose after Shaik denied knowledge of QQ11 and 12 which the prosecution said took them by surprise.
It had been a surprise because when the document was put to the state's forensic auditor, Johan van der Walt, the defence did not object to the document.
After Shaik said he did not know about the document, Downer called on forensic investigators to do another search and that is when they found BBB1 and 2.
This document is a letter to Halim Saad from a Malaysian business group, Renong, which was involved in the Durban Point Waterfront Development project.
The state, in count one of general corruption against Shaik, alleges that in this instance, like many others, Shaik had used his influence with Zuma to persuade Renong to make him their preferred black empowerment partner in the project.
Defence counsel Francois van Zyl opposed the application, saying it would bring up other matters which would force him to lead evidence as well.
In outlying his reasons for turning down the application, Squires said: "This case has already taken a very long time," and "the new evidence includes other documents which have nothing to do with this case except that it proves common authorship."
He said Shaik might also want to refute the new information and "where it might take us is unknown except that it is a long and tedious business."
Squires said he was not persuaded by the state's arguments for reopening the case. "BBB1 and 2 have not been authenticated and is therefore not admissible."
With acknowledgement to Sapa.
*1 Be aware of the Ides of May - plus/minus a fortnight.