Agreement 'Faked to Hide Zuma Bribe'
Payment made no business sense, forensic auditor tells court
The million-rand question in Durban businessman Schabir Shaik's trial is: Was a "service agreement" on his companies' books a cover for a bribe for Deputy President Jacob Zuma?
The state alleges that the agreement between French arms company Thomson-CSF and Kobifin, one of Shaik's companies, was indeed faked to hide the R1-million bribe.
Previously, the state has alleged that:
A meeting between Shaik, Alain Thetard of Thomson and Zuma was scheduled on March 11 2000. Shaik has admitted this meeting took place on March 10.
A note by Thetard, typed up and faxed to Paris in encrypted form, set out the terms of the bribe. Zuma was to be paid two annual instalments of R500 000 in exchange for protection in any arms deal probe and for support in future projects.
Yesterday, the state's forensic auditor, Johan van der Walt, told the court how he found backdated invoices and letters, handwritten notes and indications that Shaik was in a great hurry to get something done. All indications were that this had something to do with Zuma, Van der Walt said.
Shaik has pleaded not guilty to two charges of corruption and one of fraud.
Van der Walt said he had found an application form for the agreement, signed and faxed by Shaik in November 2000, with a note: "Kindly expedite our arrangement as soon as possible, as matters are becoming extremely urgent with my client."
Van der Walt said he could find nothing urgent about it and added that from what he saw, "the client could only have been Zuma". The agreement, added Van der Walt, made no business sense. "It was not what it purported to be."
He also said: "Thomson-CSF International agreed to pay Kobifin R500 000 in two instalments. At the time, Zuma was in trouble and had firm financial commitments of about R900 000."
He added that the "service agreement" contained a clause that prevented payments to people of influence, but somebody wrote "conflict with interest" (sic) * next to it. The state will say it was Shaik.
The service agreement was finalised in January 2001. In February, R247 725 (R250 000 minus bank charges) was deposited into the account of Kobitech, another of Shaik's companies.
Kobitech said it was "commissions due from the Thomson group".
An invoice dated in May 2001 found at the Thomson group indicated that it was "lobbying fees".
A handwritten note stated that the exchange rate was R6,81 for one euro at the time.
Van der Walt said FNB had indicated to him this was the exchange rate in December 2000. It was lower than the subsequent exchange rate for May 2001, which was around R7,20.
He said no other payments were made, but Nkobi did not try to legally enforce the agreement.
Yesterday afternoon Van der Walt explained the accounting intricacies around the "writing off" of money in Nkobi's books, of which parts were loans made to Zuma.
Shaik has said in his plea explanation that the writing-off of funds had been a mistake and had been rectified during the next year.
The trial continues.
With acknowledgements to Estelle Ellis and The Star.
*Actually - "conflicts with intention"