Publication: The Mercury Issued: Date: 2005-03-03 Reporter: Estelle Ellis

Shaik : I Wanted Confidentiality



The Mercury

Date 2005-03-03


Estelle Ellis

Web Link


He believed that Bianca Singh - his former secretary and a main state witness against him - had been told what to say, businessman Schabir Shaik has told his Durban High Court fraud and corruption trial.

Shaik said this yesterday while trying to explain why he said it was a "confidential matter" that he had paid the rent for a flat in Mallington Place, Durban, where Deputy President Jacob Zuma resided between 1996 and 1999.

Shaik had told the court earlier that Zuma had moved into the apartment because his life was under threat during IFP/ANC conflict in KwaZulu Natal at the time.

When he was asked about the way the payments were accounted for in his company records, he said he had wanted to maintain confidentiality about where Zuma lived.

But Prosecutor Billy Downer SC challenged Shaik, saying that both Singh and former Nkobi accountant Celia Bester had told the court they knew about Zuma's apartment.

Singh testified that Shaik would visit Zuma there. Downer pointed out that Shaik had not instructed his counsel, Francois van Zyl SC, to dispute this bit of evidence.

"Somebody might have informed her to say that," Shaik replied.

"Bianca Singh would not know where I would go in the evening."

Downer said that Shaik was only now disputing what Singh said because it suited him to do so. Shaik said he did not believe that to be the case.

Yesterday Downer focused his cross-examination on the allegations that Shaik had more than R1 million, which included some of the payments he had made to Zuma, irregularly written off in his company's books.

Shaik admitted that it happened, but claimed that his auditors had misled him and that he had the matter fixed once the Scorpions had pointed it out to him.

Towards the end of the day Shaik and Downer had one final showdown.

When Shaik said he wished to reflect an "honest set of accounts" for his business, Downer replied that this was coming from a man who was prepared to fake qualifications and present false balance sheets to the bank.

Earlier Shaik had admitted to not reading the "batches" of financial statements presented to him, but merely signing them.

Shaik replied: "There is some good in me and some bad."

He said when his former accountant, Bester, warned him to watch the payments he made to Zuma and the ANC, she did not see the bigger picture *1.

"What would be a problem today, would not be a problem tomorrow *1," he told the court.

The day of technical cross-examination was punctuated by at least one acrimonious exchange between Shaik and Downer, in which Shaik was forced to back down.

Shaik: That is a petty question.

Downer: Please refrain from such comments and answer the question.

Shaik: I am entitled to my opinion and I say that the question was petty.

Judge Squires: No, Mr Shaik, listen to Mr Downer's question and refrain from such offensive comments.

Shaik: Forgive me, my lord. Forgive me, Mr Downer.

The trial continues.

With acknowledgements to Estelle Ellis and The Mercury.

*1 Bumiputera - that is the question, that is the answer